The Executive Director of Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) Samson Itodo, has said that deepening of democracy in a bid to enhance transparency, accountability and social justice requires the support of local and international stakeholders.
Mr Itodo said this while discussing the prospects and challenges of CSOs in Nigeria during a meeting amongst Civil Society Organisations, National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the United Nations Congress recently in Abuja. In the meeting which was meant to dissect the successes and challenges of CSOs in Nigeria, Mr Itodo revealed that, the recent visit of the Chairman Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu to the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) office in Abuja is a prove that the commission appreciates feedbacks from Civil Societies and Citizens.
While explaining the successes of YIAGA in areas of election monitoring and observation using the Parallel Voting Tabulation methodology to verify and enhance electoral recognition, Mr. Itodo also reiterated that the courtesy which is first of its kind is a morale booster and an endorsement of the organisation effort in the area of elections.
Similarly, the success of YIAGA in the area of youth participation was highlighted by Mr. Itodo saying “our most celebrated initiative is the Not Too Young To Run bill which was passed by the national assembly last month. The bill seeks to reduce the age of running for the office of the President from 40 to 35, Governor 35 to 30; House of Representatives 30 to 25; and state of the House of Assembly 30 to 25.”
“YIAGA didn’t only build a Nigerian movement with Not Too Young To Run as the campaign has become a global one with the East African Union have also launched a similar campaign to reduce age requirement for running for political office”, He enthused.
The scorecard of young legislators which is another program under YIAGA has also enabled the organization to keep track with the relationship between legislators and their constituents according to Mr. Itodo.
During the meeting, representatives of other Civil Society Organisations also discussed their activities in the area of encouraging women participation in politics and also issues relating to tracking budgets at both national and state level. One of the major challenges of women participation in politics has to do with the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society along with the many other religious and cultural constraints.
In this vein, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Funke Baruwa said its CSO encourages women to register themselves in political parties to enable them to contest elections. She also said the CSO also advocate for the appointment of women to non-elective positions saying out of over 900 legislative appointments, only 59 are women.
Similarly, Stanley Achonu from BudgIT explained the role of its organization in tracking funds meant for several projects and encouraging communities to follow up on the implementation of projects in their community. Mr Achonu also decried the misappropriation of funds meant for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) saying BudgIT is making effort to discourage corruption using community and religious leaders to send anti-corruption messages.
There is also inadequate circulation of information to expose corrupt officials despite the Freedom of Information Act due to lack of punitive measures in the act, he said.
According to Mr. Achonu, “we also need to improve our tax collection and also address issues relating to Nigerians with properties outside the country”.