The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, has advised Nigerian judges to be neutral in their adjudication of electoral disputes that may arise from the forthcoming general elections.

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 organised to elicit the manifestos of presidential candidates for the 25 February general election.

In a keynote address delivered virtually at the event, Ms Mohammed expressed hope that the presidential candidates “will avoid any actions that could undermine the independence or ability of the judiciary to fulfil its role as defined by the constitution.”

“I am certain you will remain impartial arbiters in the discharge of your functions, ensuring fairness in the adjudication of all electoral matters.”

The UN chief emphasised the need “to ensure the protection of electoral and other institutions related to the administration of justice, and to ensure justice is being served.”

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

Ms Mohammed lauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for improving the transparency and accountability of Nigeria’s electoral process. But, she decried the spate of attacks on INEC facilities in Nigeria’s South-eastern region.

Ms Mohammed said Nigeria’s peace and security challenges were due to “injustice, exclusion and social inequalities coupled with impunity and human rights violations and lack of economic opportunities.”

She pledged the global body’s commitment to supporting Nigeria on its democratic journey.

“Our objective is to support a process leading to a credible, inclusive and peaceful election,” she said.

Essence of NBA dialogue

In a welcome address, NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau, said the state of the nation dialogue became imperative in engaging Nigeria’s presidential candidates.

Mr Maikyau, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said lawyers were better positioned to demand accountability from the country’s leadership and political candidates.

He noted that three thematic areas of security, economy and justice administration, were chosen with a view to engaging the presidential candidates on how to deliver on them.

“We have invited all the Presidential candidates to participate in this conversation in the hope that whoever wins the election, we would have a basis to further engage and hold government accountable to the people of Nigeria.”

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

But key presidential candidates for the polls shunned the dialogue.

While the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu was represented by Hassan Liman, a SAN, the standard bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s 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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