The Deputy Secretary General of the United NationsAmina Mohammed, has advised Nigerian judges to be neutral in their adjudication of election disputes that may arise from the upcoming general election.

Ms. Mohammed spoke on Monday at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) ‘State of the Nation Dialogue on Security, Economy and Administration of Justice’ in Abuja.

The event was organized to obtain the manifestos of the presidential candidates for the general elections on February 25.

In a keynote address delivered virtually at the event, Ms. Mohammed expressed her hope that presidential candidates “avoid any action that could undermine the independence or ability of the judiciary to fulfill its constitutionally defined role.”

“I am confident that they will continue to be impartial arbitrators in the performance of their duties, ensuring fairness in the adjudication of all electoral matters.”

The UN chief emphasized the need to “guarantee the protection of electoral institutions and others related to the administration of justice, and to ensure that justice is done.”

He noted that lawyers have a key role to play in advancing Nigeria’s aspirations on its democratic journey.

Ms. Mohammed praised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for improving the transparency and accountability of Nigeria’s electoral process.

However, he denounced the series of attacks against INEC facilities in the south-eastern region of Nigeria.

Gunmen in the southeastern region of the country have torched INEC offices, killing its staff.

Ms Mohammed said Nigeria’s peace and security challenges stem from “injustice, exclusion and social inequalities coupled with impunity and human rights violations and lack of economic opportunity.”

He pledged the world body’s commitment to support Nigeria on its democratic journey.

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“Our goal is to support a process that leads to credible, inclusive and peaceful elections,” he said.

The essence of the NBA dialogue

In a welcome speech, NBA president Yakubu Maikyau said the state of the nation dialogue had become imperative to engage Nigeria’s presidential candidates.

Mr. Maikyau, Chief Advocate for Nigeria (SAN), said lawyers were best positioned to hold the country’s political leaders and candidates to account.

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He pointed out that three thematic areas of security, economy and administration of justice were chosen with a view to involving the presidential candidates on how to comply with them.

“We have invited all the presidential candidates to participate in this conversation in the hope that whoever wins the election, we have a basis to get more involved and hold the government accountable to the Nigerian people.”

The NBA president urged lawyers to deploy their skills in promoting human rights.

But the main presidential candidates at the polls shied away from dialogue.

While All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu was represented by Hassan Liman, a SAN, Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) standard-bearers Atiku Abubakar and Labor Party Peter Obi stayed away from the event.

Omoyele Sowore (AAC), Sani Yabagi (ADP), Peter Umeadi (APGA), Hamza Al-Mustapha (AA), Dumebi Kachikwu (ADC), Adewole Adebayo (SDP) and Dan Nwanyanwu (ZLP), attended the event.

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