Security, constituency delimitation, more investment in voter education, ad-hoc staff training, as well as electoral reforms dominated discussions Thursday between INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood and members of civil society organisations.
The nation’s Election Management Body had convened the meeting with members of civil society organizations to discuss plans for the 2019 elections. INEC had earlier in the month announced February.
The meeting with the CSOs kicked off with an update on off-cycle elections conducted by the commission since the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu took over the helm of affairs at INEC.
According to him, INEC has concluded 167 off-cycle elections, in almost every state in the country since 2015.
Other issues discussed at the meeting with CSOs include: Electoral reforms, role of security agencies at the elections, as well as matters arising from judgments of tribunals and courts. A major highlight of the meeting was the presentation on the ICT innovations by the Commission geared towards strengthening Nigeria’s electoral, especially the 2019 general elections.
CSOs lauded the commission for early announcement of the 2019 general election dates. They stated that the step will help the commission and all stakeholders in the proper planning of the elections.
On the issue of security, CSOs urged security agencies involved in elections to be more professional and less partisan. They condemned undue interference of security agencies in the nation’s elections.
CSOs commended INEC for its plan to commence nation-wide Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) at the Local Government Areas. The CSOs also urged INEC to invest more in voter education in order to reduce voter apathy and increase voter turnout. They also enjoined the commission to engage and deepen its relationship with marginalized groups such as women, youth and persons with disabilities.
Speaking on electoral reforms, CSOs tasked the commission to work closely with the National Assembly and the Presidential Committee on Constitution and Electoral Reforms to ensure that innovations are in tandem with legal framework- law and electoral reforms. The Commission was urged to clean up its the voter register and to invest in real time reporting of elections and cyber security.
On the issue of data, CSOs commended the commission for disaggregation of data on the elections and enjoined the commission to use the data for publicity and voter mobilization. In addition, they urged the commission to ensure that the data includes persons with disabilities and that it will guide the policy of the commission in planning for future elections.
CSOs also called for more due diligence in the recruitment and training of ad-hoc staff. They enjoined INEC to keep a database of corps members that served in elections and to reward those that performed well, possibly with employment.
Delimitation of constituencies, which involves adjusting or demarcating boundaries of electoral constituencies so as to create a fair balance of the voting population, was also at the front burner at the meeting. The CSOs observed that Nigeria’s official population hasn’t been updated and this has quiet an impact on the electoral process.
The commission promised to deepen its Youth Ambassador Initiatives, stating that the INEC Youth Ambassador Initiative will be re-introduced for the 2019 general elections.
Discussions were also held on the issue of early voting and policy discussions on voting by prison inmates, particularly on what category of prisoners can be allowed to vote.
Over 50 frontline Civil Society Organizations made up of Women, PWDs, Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and Youth Groups attended the meeting with the Commission’s leadership.
Following the meeting, the commission revolved to hold more structured engagements with the Civil Society, and to immediately communicate to the public on whatever decision it takes.