The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has charged community leaders in Kogi State to use their positions in ensuring peace before, during and after the November 16 governorship election in the state.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. James Apam, gave the charge, on Friday, in Lokoja, at a forum organised by the commission for leaders from various communities in the state.
He said that it is practically impossible for the commission to conduct a free, fair and credible election under a chaotic atmosphere.
He urged the leaders to help in ensuring peace for election to hold.
He told them to identify any member of their community who is likely to constitute a threat to the peaceful conduct of the election and alert security agents of their presence.
He appealed to them to help educate members of their community on how to vote for the candidate of their choice, to reduce incidences of invalid votes.
He reiterated the Commission’s determination to the conduct of a credible and acceptable election, adding that a level playing ground will be created for all the candidates.
The Country Representative of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mrs Maria-Teresa Maurio described the sensitisation forum as right a step in the right direction.
Maurio who was represented by Dr Isiaka Yahaya said that the leaders serve as a bridge between the people and government, and are in best position to highlight their opinion.
“Being the custodian of traditional values and norms, the community leaders are better placed to mould public opinions and mobilise the people for development programmes,” she said.
She urged them to exert strong moral authority in their communities, to foster peaceful environment conducive for the deployment of personnel and materials and massive turnout of voters.
She expressed the delight of ECES to partner with the INEC in its efforts to conduct a peaceful election, with the hope that the leaders will also join hands to achieve same.
“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 stated.
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.
He said that the community leaders will also be sensitised on the need to mobilise their subjects to turn out in their large numbers for the election.