Youths Ask INEC to Ensure Access to Information on the Electoral Process

mraadmin
By mraadmin February 20, 2014 08:35 Updated

Youths Ask INEC to Ensure Access to Information on the Electoral Process

Over 200 youths representing different stakeholders have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be more transparent in its electoral process by improving citizens’ access to information. This call was made last month at the 3-day National Youth Conference on the Road Map for 2015 Elections which was held in Abuja. They requested that INEC needs to be more transparent and proactive in addressing Nigeria’s electoral challenges in order to restore citizen’s trust and confidence in the electoral process.

Dr. Mourtada Deme, Project Director UNDP/DGD

Dr. Mourtada Deme, Project Director UNDP/DGD

The conference was organized by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Youth Alliance on Constitution and Electoral Reform (YACORE) in collaboration with the Democratic Governance for Development Project of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP/DGD).

According to the organizers, the conference was convened on the basis that “there is a critical need to undertake a holistic appraisal of the election climate and architecture, harness the real participatory power of young people and their readiness to get involved in the electoral process, develop strategies and collaborations for effective youth engagement in the 2015 elections and beyond.”

The conference drew over 200 participants from youth civil society organizations, ministry of youth development, political parties, media organizations, socio-cultural groups, religious organizations and international development partners. The conference also benefitted from shared experiences of participants from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and the United Kingdom. Three national commissioners and directors of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) represented the electoral commission at the conference.

The conference participants released a communiqué in which they noted that: “There are remarkable improvements in Nigeria’s electoral process following the appointment of the current leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission specifically, in the area of election management, voter registration and increased citizens’ trust and confidence in the electoral process.” They were of the view that despite these obvious improvements, the Nigerian electoral process is still fraught with perennial electoral challenges like defective voters register, poor management of Election Day logistics and low voter education. They stated their concerns over the growing level of electoral impunity which is exacerbated by the non-prosecution or slow prosecution of electoral offenders.

The participants commended the recent release of the 2015 election timetable by INEC which they say indicates the Commission’s disposition to learn from past experiences as it provides adequate time for stakeholders to plan for the elections. However, the participants noted that the Commission only announced the election dates but failed to release an elaborate timetable detailing other pre-election activities. They said: “The uncertainty of the official commencement of the National Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) and distribution of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission raises questions on the preparedness of the Commission for the 2015 polls.”

They observed that the rising insecurity and violence in the country poses serious threat to the 2015 Elections as it seem to hinder citizens’ ability to exercise their franchise and noted that “Nigerians will be reluctant to participate in the 2015 elections if our security challenges are not addressed.”

In reference to Justice Uwais Committee’s report which contains exhaustive recommendations on electoral reform, participants suggested that the National Assembly needs to revisit the report with the view of mainstreaming its recommendations into the ongoing electoral reform. The present political situation in the National Assembly has great potentials of throwing electoral reform and constitutional review into jeopardy. The participants noted and are concerned that some legislators appear to be more focused on promoting personal and party agenda rather than focus on people-centred legislations.

Participants also expressed concerns over Nigeria’s non-compliance with international agreements and domestication of regional instruments she has ratified. The African Youth Charter which is a definitive statement articulating actions and statutes on the roles and integration of African youth in mainstream development and politics is duly ratified by Nigeria. However, its implementation leaves so much to be desired. They said “The absence of data on youth participation in the democratic process poses a serious challenge for youth organizations, political parties, development partners working on election related issues. This situation impedes the planning and implementation of youth democracy programs tailored towards increasing youth participation.

They recommended that INEC should as a matter of urgency commence the continuous voter’s registration (CVR) and distribution of the permanent voters card (PVC). They requested that INEC should release a detailed timetable for the 2015 elections which should clearly articulate pre-election activities preceding the February 14 and 28, 2015 elections.

They also recommended the following:

  • INEC should develop a comprehensive contingency plan for election logistics and security for the 2015 elections. Such a plan should be developed in partnership with other stakeholders in the electoral process e.g. civil society organizations, media organizations, security agencies etc;
  • INEC should partner with credible youth organizations to establish a Voter Education Volunteers Program that instills in youths the value of volunteerism whilst encouraging them to mobilize and sensitize people on the electoral process;
  • INEC should collaborate effectively with youth civil society organizations and media organizations in conducting timely and robust issue-based voter education ahead of the continuous voters registration (CVR), distribution of the permanent voters card (PVC) and the 2015 general elections;
  • Ahead of the 2015 elections, INEC should review the Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) between the commission and the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to guarantee safety and life insurance for NYSC members deployed during elections;
  • INEC should intensify its efforts in prosecuting staff of the Commission found guilty of dereliction of duty or involved in electoral malpractices;
  • The review of the Electoral Act 2010 should be placed on the priority list of the National Assembly agenda for 2014. Emphatically, speedy passage of electoral laws could guarantee successful elections in 2015;
  • NASS should ensure adequate budgetary allocation to INEC in the 2014 and 2015 Appropriation Bill;
  • The NASS should revisit the Justice Uwais Committee’s report and mainstream its recommendations into the ongoing electoral reform. De-bundling of INEC, establishment of an electoral offences commission and independent candidacy should receive immediate attention of the National Assembly;
  • Youth organisations should support INEC to deliver credible polls in the forthcoming governorship in Ekiti and Osun states and the 2015 general elections;
  • Youth organisations should collaborate with INEC in conducting timely continuous voter and civic education in order to increase the value of citizen’s participation in the electoral process;
  • CSOs should bridge the urban-rural divide in voter and civic education and electoral monitoring, not just focusing on central urban areas but also satellite regions connected to urban areas;
  • CSOs should provide consistent citizens oversight over institutions like INEC, NASS, Security agencies and political parties to ensure compliance with electoral laws and guidelines;
  • CSOs should resist through civil means any attempt by politicians to mobilize youths for political thuggery and electoral violence ahead of the 2015 elections and beyond;
  • CSOs should  establish content partnerships in the deployment of social media technology for voter education and election observation;
  • CSOs should encourage young people to join political parties or register new political parties.
  • Political mentorship and Inter-generational dialogues should be encouraged to build youth capacity and increase the value of their participation in the electoral process;
  • The need to promote collaborate efforts and synergies ahead of the 2015 elections to avoid duplication and unnecessary waste of scarce resources;
  • Political parties should recognize and respect the principles of constitutionalism and rule of law in their activities;
  • Political parties should ensure internal party democracy especially in the selection of candidates for elections and in taking party decisions;
  • Mainstream political mentorship and leadership programs within the parties to build youth capacity and encourage inter-generational knowledge transfer;
  • Ensure the position of Youth Leader in the party is strictly occupied by young party members who fall within the youth age bracket (18-35);
  • International/Donor community should provide more technical and financial support to youth organizations engaged in election related work;

They concluded their recommendation by requesting: “Government at all levels should ensure that all elective and appointive positions designed for youth eg Minister of Youth Development, Commissioners of Youth, Special Advisers on Youth etc are occupied by young men and women who are between the ages of 18 – 35 and possess requisite youth development skills. This is in compliance with National Youth Policy, African Youth Charter, and the National Youth Agenda on Political Participation.”

Participants resolved to compel Federal and State governments to publish periodic reports on the implementation of policies and programs geared towards youth development and youth participation in decision-making.

Click here to view the communiqué.

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By mraadmin February 20, 2014 08:35 Updated
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