Chris Steven, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria’s democracy was steadily improving with deeper understanding of the culture and tenets among the people, and strengthening of the institutions that guarantee free and fair elections.

The President also said that he is more concerned about the conduct of free and fair elections in the country at all times.

President Buhari stated this on Monday when he hosted the Governor-General of Canada, Julie Payette, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“I emphasise free and fair elections at all times,” presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement quoted the President as saying.

The President’s comment came three months to the general elections and there are already apprehensions among electorate that there may be no free and fair elections.

The apprehension followed the outcome of governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states which the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and which were marred by allegations of irregularities.

President Buhari said he saw the evolving strength of democracy in the country by contesting for presidential elections three times before winning at the fourth trial in 2015.

The President told his guest that Nigeria had been learning from the mistakes of those who practised democracy for a longer period and by looking inward at its own peculiarities.

He added that the bilateral relations with Canada will continue to be improved considering the huge interest of the country in Nigeria and growing economic ties, with many Nigerians schooling and working in the country.

The President noted that Canada played a brotherly role in helping displaced persons in the North East, following Boko Haram insurgency.

Speaking during the visit, the Governor-General, Julie Payette, said Nigeria and Canada enjoyed a warm and strong partnership that has translated into ease of migration, large trade relations and cultural exchanges.

Payette, who is an astronaut, said it was important for nations to pool resources together to start exploring the benefits of space in providing solutions to some problems on earth.

The Governor-General noted that the world would achieve more by de-emphasising geographical differences and refocusing its energy on the commonality of humanity, pointing out that from space one can only see an earth without borders.

Payette said her visit was about showcasing “youth, innovation and technology,” adding that Canada would like to partner with Nigeria in the ongoing diversification of the economy.

“We wish you free and credible elections in 2019,” she said.

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