The British Government has condemned vote – buying , which was rampant in the recent Ekiti State governorship election.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria , Paul Arkwright , described vote – buying as a form of electoral misconduct like rigging and ballot stuffing , while addressing journalists shortly after a meeting with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu , in Abuja on Friday .
He said , “ I was there in Ekiti to monitor elections and I heard a lot of reports of alleged vote buying and we are convinced that some vote buying went on . I condemn it . Vote buying is illegal ; it is against the law , it is just as vote rigging , it is just as bad as ballot stuffing.
“ We cannot make a distinction when all these activities are illegal so I condemn that . What are we going to do about it ? Well we just had a meeting with the chairman of INEC , we have been talking about public awareness and how the political parties themselves can take responsibility for condemning this action and not continuing it .
“ We do hope that 2019 will be free, fair , credible and of course , peaceful elections . ”
The British envoy, however , commended INEC for the conduct of elections in recent times , saying the UK government had faith in INEC and its leadership .
Arkwright also said the UK and United States governments had pledged $ 60 m (N21 . 6 bn ) to voter education in Nigeria for the next six years.
He added, “ I think the election process itself went well , the materials were there , the security forces kept their distance and did manage to keep a peaceful election and we are seeing progress in how INEC is carrying out each election . So , we have confidence in INEC and the chairman.
“ The UK has been a very strong supporter of INEC and together with the USAID , we are spending about $ 60 m over a six – year period in support of deepening democracy in Nigeria . ”
In his remarks, the Department for International Development Secretary of State , Penny Maudaunt , advised security agencies to be neutral in conduct even as the 2019 general elections approach.
Maudaunt said , “Though the elections were largely peaceful and results widely endorsed by stakeholders , vote buying by both the main political parties was widely criticised .
“ There is time to tackle some of the challenges noted before next year ’ s elections . But INEC will not be able to solve all electoral problems on its own. Everyone in society has a role to play and a contribution to make.
“ Political parties must respect a code of conduct adhering to the highest standards . We encourage security agencies to remain visibly neutral and ensure a safe and secure environment for the electorate . ”