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British High Commissioner expresses concern over Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi elections



By Sola Omoniyi, Lagos

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, disclosed on Tuesday evening that the United Kingdom has shown interest in monitoring the November 11 off-cycle governorship elections in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi States.

Montgomery also raised observations about the numerous post-election cases at both the state and federal levels, saying it was important for the diplomatic mission to understand how the processes are playing out.

The high commissioner raised these concerns when he led a delegation to the headquarters of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Abuja, where he was received by the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje.

The development comes hours after the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, announced that the military was prepared for the off-cycle polls in the three states.

Musa further warned that any act of violence would not be condoned before, during, and after the elections.

But Montgomery, who also admitted to having visited leading opposition parties before coming to the APC secretariat, called for fair play and a level playing field for the candidates contesting.

He said, “As explained in our private meeting earlier, I, as British High Commissioner, have a role to understand the politics of this great country and to engage with the political parties to understand both the priorities, challenges and opportunities of the political process in Nigeria so that I can explain it to my ministers back in London. I also need to understand your perspectives on several issues.

“As I am doing here, we met other members of the political leadership of different political parties across the country. There are topical concerns that we have touched on like the gubernatorial elections, and the runoff by-elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi. That we wish to understand and are watching carefully to see the process and the way it is carried out.

“We’ve discussed a number of the legal issues present in the political domain at federal and state level. It’s important for us as a diplomatic mission to understand how those processes are playing out. We admire the way Nigeria is using the courts to settle disputes of elections at every level when they occur. And we appreciate that process. So, Your Excellency, I’ve come to pay my respects to you my congratulations gain your insights and wisdom and pay my respects to this great party that has helped shape Nigeria’s democracy,”

Welcoming the British delegation, Ganduje acknowledged the long history between both countries and how they both practised a parliamentary system at one point.

“We are so pleased to have you given the relationship and long history between Britain and Nigeria. You are our colonial masters. We got our independence from you and you know our country, even though things are dynamic.

“We started with a political system similar to your own because we borrowed from you and after independence, you assisted us to form political parties as well as to conduct elections during that time. But along the line, our political system changed from a Prime Minister to a presidential system. So that is where the differences are.

“It is very encouraging and we’ll take the opportunity to also seek your permission to visit your country and discuss with the political parties that are there, especially as the ruling party, to understand the relationship between the political party and the government in power and their role in assisting good governance.

“So you can see that if the political party is not well structured, not well established, democracy itself is defective. So we thank you for coming. We look forward to having stronger ties and learning more from you because you have older political institutions than our own country. You have seen it all but our own is an evolutionary one, which we want to take a much higher level,” he stated.