Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) has called this press conference out of serious concern that Nigeria and its elective governance is imperiled. We are presently faced with grave existential threats to our dear country with consequences that threaten the West African sub region as well as peace and security of Africa. Presently we are challenged by threats from a raging insurgency in the North East of Nigeria, grave fiscal uncertainty occasioned by the drop in oil prices and now this; a terminal threat to our democracy, acts of subversive impunity.
The postponement of the elections earlier scheduled for February 14th & 28th 2015, following the startling refusal of the Military authorities to guarantee security for the elections while evoking dark memories of past military dictatorships has thrown up various constitutional and political challenges that undermine and subvert our fledgling democracy. It has also shaken public credibility and confidence in the forthcoming elections, setting off a round of speculations and conspiracy theories about the real motivation for the shift of the election dates.
The Situation Room is committed to Nigeria’s democratic process and wishes to state unequivocally that the elections of March 28th and April 11th 2015 must hold. It is our last bulwark of defense of elective governance and democracy. We believe that the postponement of this election for whatever reason will undermine whatever modicum of legitimacy the electoral process still has and may ultimately be the trigger for massive unrest, violence and armed conflict, effectively setting the stage for civil unrest.
Since the announcement of this dubious pronouncement, Nigeria has effectively been in a state of suspended animation. In the last few days alone, we have seen the effect of postponed elections on our economy, our politics, our society and our collective state of emotional and psychological well-being. The economic costs are mounting. Compounding drop in oil price, the Naira has lost 25% of its value going from N160:$1 in October to N200:$1 at the Interbank as of February 11th. The CBN spent $5 billion in the last quarter to defend the naira but this is unsustainable, as our foreign reserves have dropped significantly in the last few months. As the CBN lacks the resources to defend the Naira, the naira will eventually be left in a free fall and for a country that is import dependent, all prices will go up which means the cost of living will go up, the value of earnings will reduce and inflation will rise. This will undoubtedly result in wide spread labour and industrial unrest.
Of all the threats, the most critical at this moment is the crisis of legitimacy. Section 132 (2) and 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) clearly states that an election shall be held “not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office.” As such, elections cannot happen later than April 29th 2015. Therefore, the elections dates of March 28th & April 11th 2015 CAN NOT be moved. The current government has spent its electoral legitimacy and must renew its mandate with the people to ensure it can make appropriate plans to handle the security and fiscal crisis we have on our hands.
1. Situation Room calls on the National Assembly, as the hub of democracy, to join in protecting our hard won democracy to ensure elections hold on March 28th & April 11th 2015 announced.
2. We call on all Judges to respect the Constitution and the wishes of the Nigerian people by maintaining their independence and integrity.
3. We call on the security agencies who are mandated to be non-partisan to respect the rights of ALL Nigerians, the decisions of INEC and ensure a fair playing field for all political players.
4. We call on all political parties to communicate clearly with their party faithfuls and supporters that Nigeria cannot afford to postpone the elections in our collective interest and they should maintain peace and order.
5. We call on the media to report without fear or favour and ensure their channels are not used to foster hate speech and create fear and distrust within the populace.
6. We call on religious institutions to encourage their members to peacefully participate in the electoral process and also lend their voices to the demand that elections must hold on the announced dates.
7. We call on Nigerian citizens who have shown great restraint with the postponement to resist any attempts to foster violence and use all legal means through pressure on political parties and their elected members of the National Assembly to unanimously demand that elections must NOT be moved.
8. For the avoidance of doubt, we reiterate the fact that the President of Nigeria has no constitutional power or authority to remove the Chairman of INEC.
9. We call on the international community to continue their support of Nigeria’s democratic journey and use all diplomatic channels to impress on relevant stakeholders the importance of holding elections on the announced dates.
The Situation Room firmly holds that further electoral postponement will aggravate the damage already done to the economy and it is critical that we have a legitimately elected government that can push through tough decisions and rally the country to address these existential challenges to Nigeria. We ask that the broad spectrum of the Nigerian society work and support this effort of civil society to stand in stout defense of our democracy and common wealth.
Long live the Democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria!
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria, Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Others are Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, CISLAC, CCIDESOR, CWAE, Alliance for Credible Elections and several other CSOs numbering more than Sixty.