The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has charged community leaders in Kogi State to use their position to ensure peace before and during the Nov. 16 governorship election in the state.
Dr James Apam, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, gave the charge on Friday in Lokoja while speaking at a forum organised by the commission for leaders of various communities in the state.
Apam said it was practically impossible for the commission to conduct a free, fair and credible election under a chaotic atmosphere, urging the leaders to help in ensuring peace necessary for the election to hold.
He told them to identify any member of the community likely to constitute a threat to the peaceful conduct of the election and alert security agents of their presence.
The commissioner also appealed to them to help in educating members of their communities on how to vote for the candidate of their choice, to reduce the incidence of invalid votes.
He reiterated the determination of the commission to conduct a credible and acceptable election, assuring that a level playing field would be created for all candidates.
The Country Representative of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mrs Maria-Teresa Maurio, described the sensitisation forum as a right step in the right direction.
Maurio, who was represented by Dr Isiaka Yahaya, said that the leaders served as a bridge between the people and government and were in the best position to mould opinion.
“Being custodian of traditional values and norms, the community leaders are better placed to mould public opinion and mobilise the people for development programmes,” she said.
Maurio urged them to exert their strong moral authority in their communities to foster a peaceful environment conducive for the deployment of personnel and materials, and the massive turnout of voters.
She expressed the delight of ECES to partner with the INEC in its efforts to conduct a peaceful election, hoping that the leaders would also join hands to achieve this.
” Given the calibre of participants drawn from every part of the state, I am optimistic that the message of peaceful conduct of the Kogi State Governorship election will be taken to every part of the state and imbibed by the citizenry,” she said.
The INEC Director in charge of voter education, Mr Ayo Aluko, said that the objective of the forum was to sensitise the leaders on the need to ensure peace before and during the election.
Aluko said that the community leaders would also be sensitised on the need to mobilise their subjects to turn out in large number for the election.