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2019 Polls: INEC needs institutional reforms

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The Head of the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to Nigeria, Hailemariam Desalegne, has said in spite of the shortcomings witnessed during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, the African Union is satisfied with the outcome of the process.

In this exclusive interview with Saturday Sun in Abuja, the immediate past Prime Minister of Ethiopia also opened up on the $3,000 per traveller put into force by the Ethiopian authorities, saying that the law was to checkmate monies going for terrorism, drug trafficking, including the scarcity and smuggling of foreign currency. He spoke further on these with AIDOGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja during the week.

Having led the AU Election Observer Mission to Nigeria and you were briefed on why the elections were shifted and even signed a joint statement expressing disappointment about the cancellation, is the reason given by INEC enough for the shift in the polls?

I think the disappointment was legitimate because it disturbed the plans, the way you act in different ways, not only for observers, but for the entire population of Nigeria, simply because one week postponement is not an easy issue. And it has cost the economy as well. So, that disappointment was correct. But it was necessary because if they continued with that preparation, it would have been disastrous. Even after a week, we see a number of hiccups that have not been properly addressed, which need certain kinds of institutional reforms by the INEC.

Some people felt that the cancellation was more than logistical issues. Is it true?

I think as observers, we have only observed that it was logistical problem. We haven’t seen any underline problem in our observation.

Before your arrival in Nigeria, the international community has been accused by the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) of showing bias towards the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How correct is this?

I can only tell you about the African Union because I cannot represent the other parties. Maybe it is appropriate if you ask the APC people to give you specifically, which observers they are mentioning. If they say the African Union Observation Mission, they are not correct because African Union Observation Mission is impartial, neutral and Nigeria is also party to the African Charters, which the country has signed. So, we strictly follow those guidelines and we have a code of conduct to be impartial in election observation. And I don’t think the APC was mentioning about the African Union in this regard. Nonetheless, I think it is proper to ask the appropriate organization, the APC, to elaborate.

Since the processes often judge the credibility of any election, are you satisfied with the build-up to the elections that just took place, the Presidential and National Assembly elections?

First of all, I am so much impressed by the resilience, patience and also patriotism of the Nigerian people. It is the people that determine the process, not only the legal procedures or whatever. If the people are so vigilant, I don’t think anybody can cheat where the people are not only active, but proactive in this case. So, I appreciate what the people have shown to see a democratic election take place in Nigeria. Above all, when we see also the independence and impartiality of INEC, we came to understand that all the short falls; every party is accusing INEC, which obviously means that INEC is at the receiving end. But I think this calls for rigorous reform, which the government’s side has also to look into it. At this juncture, I want to commend the Nigerian Government because they have given all the resources necessary to INEC and the INEC chairman told us that all the resources they requested for were at their disposal.

Again, the administration of elections in countries like Nigeria, which is the largest in our population in Africa, which is around 200 million, is not easy. We can’t expect in one go for this to happen. So, I think the most important thing is, this is a house in the making. And if somebody expects in only 20 years since Nigeria started to have a multiparty democracy election, it is very difficult to judge because even in the West, democracy has grown up and elections have progressively grown up. And initially, it was only the men that were grown up for the women to be part of the election process and the blacks had come later on. So, I think it is a process that grows and the Nigerian election grows from time to time and we appreciate that. Now also, we recommend those areas, which should be improved. In any case, I think by and large, the election satisfies us and maybe the entire population of Nigeria.

Why is election a huge issue in Africa and not in other parts of the world that we suspend every other thing and the tension is usually so high?

There are a number of reasons. Until elections and democracy matures, it calls for attention. There is awakening by the African people at this moment. They are not used to it earlier, but now, they have started reaping the product of democratic elections. So, if you take Nigeria from 1999, I think around six elections have been conducted. That has grown from time to time and the Nigerian people are becoming so enthusiastic to see that the election improves from time to time. But, above all, it decides on the lives of their own people and still, it is a developing country. There is a huge task ahead of government to discharge this responsibility. But if you see matured and grown up democracies, their economies are already stagnant and the people have already taken their shares of life. This is a fledgling democracy and that is why in Africa, democracy and election becomes one of the big issues. And of course, people also want power.

Has the AU put in place a mechanism to resolve crisis in case there is any?

Yes. The AU has a mechanism and every country has signed those mechanisms. And the AU has Peace and Security architecture. Also, if there is any dispute in elections, first of all, we encourage sovereign countries to use their own legal frameworks to address those issues. If there is anything that goes beyond that, the AU has its own mechanisms, using the index of AU and all our African mechanisms, which you don’t find somewhere else. So, they can be used and the AU mediates and supports this kind of mechanisms.

How is life after office?

Life is very nice after office. I always like to tell my peers in power that life after office is still very interesting and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the life which you have never been enjoying while you were in office busy and so much stressed. But we don’t need to cling to power because there is life after office. I think I am enjoying it and I want others also to enjoy by finishing. They shouldn’t change the constitution to continue in power. That is my message.

It is alleged that you resurrected the old law of $3,000 per traveller in Ethiopia. Is it true?

No. It is not. It has been there for many, many years. I think in the US, it is $10,000. It is a matter of the amount. So, I think that amount can be improved through courts, but that is only a matter of amount. Otherwise, every country has a restriction on foreign currency because there is very little foreign currency and there is smuggling of foreign currency in the country. And it is just to avoid that.

Why can’t Ethiopia adhere to the international limit of $10,000?

There are a number of countries with even $2,000, $5,000, $7,000, $10,000, depending on the country’s situation. So, that is not unique to Ethiopia.

In making this law active, were you not scared that Nigerians may boycott using Ethiopian Airlines?

I don’t think so. Nigerians love Ethiopian Airlines and this restriction was there for several years and they adhered to it. By the way, that restriction is that you only have to declare. Otherwise, you can take $100,000 and declare it.

So, the issue is basically declaration?

If you have more than $3,000, you have to declare and then, when you come out, you come with your own money. So, it is not restricted at all. The thing is, what is the amount that you can use without declaring? It is N$3,000. So, if you want to use more and you get in with more money, you can get in, but you have to declare the amount and when you come out, then you show the declaration.

Including valuables?

Everything! There is no restriction. So, I think people shouldn’t confuse the fact that they can take more than $3,000, even $100,000, if it is logically possible for them to carry it. But they have to declare while getting into the country and then, they have to show receipt for the money they use or if they want to get it back, then they show the declaration they want.

Those whose monies were confiscated, is there any hope of refund?

I think we have been refunding them every time. But they should abide by the law. Why don’t they declare? The problem is, they should be daring enough to declare. If they are afraid to declare, it means that there is something behind it. And you know that in money laundering, Ethiopia signed the Money Laundering Act, the prohibition of these monies that can go for terrorism, drug trafficking. So, I think that is the main reason why we want to abide by the law.

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12 Comments Nigeria News
Jabless• 8 months ago
Danson92• 8 months ago
Mayor11• 8 months ago
yetty031009• 8 months ago
olakunle031009• 8 months ago
Irphilippe• 8 months ago
Donstefani• 8 months ago
AdetolaAkomolafe• 8 months ago
Alright sir..we hear ur plenty epistles
Iamajtofunmi• 8 months ago
innkayobami• 8 months ago
Can someone please break this down?
Kmight• 8 months ago
Fatimabello• 8 months ago

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