Supporters shout slogans during a campaign rally for Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos. On January 29, Nigerian vice President Yemi Osinbajo urged traditional rulers in the country to canvas for peace ahead of the 2019 poll.

JOHANNESBURG – As Nigeria gears up for general elections in February, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is urging traditional rulers in the country to canvas for peace ahead of the 2019 poll.

Osinbajo made the call on Monday at the opening of the 10th National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN) in Abuja, the Premium Times reported.

”Building a synergy towards free, fair, credible and violence-free 2019 General Elections” was the theme of the meeting which was attended by the chairman of NCTRN and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar; and the co-chairman, the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunnwusi. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, also attended in addition to a number of other dignitaries.

The vice president thanked the traditional rulers for their support and underlined their importance during an election season. Osinbajo also pointed out that they played an important role in helping the security agencies curb violence when unscrupulous groups and individuals use the electoral season to foment trouble and disrupt the electoral process.

But trouble is already brewing ahead of the February 16 general elections.

On Monday the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) decided to embark on a two-day warning boycott of all courts in Nigeria over the suspension of the country's top judge Walter Onnoghen.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting of the NBA’s national executive committee (NEC) after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen last Friday, replacing him with acting chief justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed only weeks before an election in which the judiciary could play an important role.

Onnoghen has argued against a trial he was due to face, for allegedly failing to declare his assets, saying there was no merit in the case. The trial was subsequently adjourned indefinitely on Monday by the Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

The main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has labelled the president's decision "an act of dictatorship" while the NBA and local civil society associations have called it an "attempted coup against the Nigerian judiciary".

During past elections Onnoghen has helped resolve electoral disputes some of which have been marred by violence and vote-rigging. The chief justice could preside over an election result dispute.

African News Agency (ANA)