Ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming elections, United States Ambassador to Nigeria W. Stuart Symington has given election day tips to Nigerian voters while charging every Nigerian to “contribute in making it a democratic, peaceful, free and fair process.”

The U.S. Ambassador noted that it is essential to be an informed voter. This means knowing about the candidates to vote for and the voting process as well.

The tips are as follows – First, get smart about the candidates on your ballot and choose who you will vote for, then study and compare manifestos of the presidential, Senate and House of Representatives candidate. Endeavour to review political party manifestos on important issues, while also making sure you know the voting process so that you are prepared to participate fully and so that you can report any irregularities that happen at your polling unit.

Here is some important information to note regarding election day:

  1. Polls open at 8:00 am to begin accreditation. In order to vote you must be in line before accreditation closes at 1:00 pm, but be early just in case.
  2. After accreditation INEC advises you to stay within the polling area to wait for voting to begin; if you leave, you must return before voters queue for voting, which should be at 1:30 pm (but come back early to make sure).
  3. Despite reports to the contrary, INEC confirmed that you can use any finger to mark your ballot but the mark must not stray into another box.

The US Ambassador also addressed the recent issue of misrepresentation of the U.S. role in the coming elections. He stressed America’s neutrality and maintained that the U.S. supports the democratic process and a level playing field, and does not take the side of any party or candidate.

“…that is the bedrock principle of our Government’s advocacy on democratic elections. In the final run-up to the vote, fake news and rumors are operating in overdrive. But it must be repeated, we are not taking sides,” the US diplomat said.

The statement may not be far-fetched from the recent cancellation of the visit of former U.S. President Bill Clinton to Nigeria. President Clinton had been invited to deliver a keynote address at the signing of Peace Accords by the candidates for Nigeria’s presidency earlier this week. But according to his spokesperson, the planned trip was called off over fears it may be ‘politicized’.

“We support the democratic process and the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in managing the elections.  We call on every Nigerian citizen, official, party members, and the security forces to peacefully support Nigeria’s democratic process in accordance with Nigerian law,” Symington added.

If you want more details or have more questions on the elections, visit INEC’s new website to see the answers to frequently asked questions.

You can also report both poll results and problems on Election Day by using the mobile crowdsource election monitoring app made by civil society organization, Zabe. Or report to INEC on its election hotline 0700-CALL-INEC (0700-2255-4632) or by downloading the INEC app on non-iPhone mobiles.

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