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Yiaga Africa Convenes Roundtable Meeting in Kaduna State on Local Government Election Reforms

As part of its efforts to improve the quality of local government elections in Nigeria, Yiaga Africa convened a roundtable meeting with election stakeholders in Kaduna State to explore how to improve local government elections in the state. The roundtable meeting is the third such meeting that has been held under its CSO-Led Advocacy and Engagement for Model SIECs project, with the first two held in Akwa Ibom and Lagos States. 

The project, which is supported by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is aimed at increasing public confidence in subnational elections by promoting institutional independence, resilience, and capacity among state independent electoral commissions (SIECs), of which the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) is one of the three model SIECs that are part of the project.

The roundtable was attended by election stakeholders in the state including representatives of prominent political parties, civil society organisations, government officials, legislators, the media and members of the state electoral commission.

In her opening remarks, Dr Asmau Maikudi, a member of Yiaga Africa’s Elections Working Group described the local government system as a core institution in Nigeria’s governing structure. 

“How an electoral system operates goes a long way in determining the degree of public confidence and support for the democratic system. However, under some conditions, local governments cannot claim legitimacy and this raises questions about their democratic credentials,” she noted.

Dr. Asma’u Maikudi

“Local government elections, among other things, are expected to confer legitimacy and create a conducive environment for accountable and effective local government in Nigeria,” Dr. Maikudi added.

In a presentation on the challenges and opportunities of local government elections in Kaduna State, the Director of Programmes of Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu pointed out that transparency in local government administration would enable citizens to demand accountability in everyday governance and at election time effectively.

“However, some governors conduct local government elections only when they deem it necessary. Lack of accountability and undue interference by state governors and legislators inhibits the responsiveness of local councils to their communities and people,” she lamented.

Cynthia Mbamalu, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs

She emphasised the need for legislation that will check the manner in which state governments do not let local governments thrive.

“Matters such as the creation of local government may be left to states subject to minimum criteria as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. These measures will minimise the manipulation of local governments by the executive and legislative organs of the state government,” she suggested.

Also, the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, represented by Mr Ibrahim Sambo restated the Kaduna State Government’s commitment to upholding the tenets of democracy, adding that the state was the first to use electronic voting in LGA elections.

Mr Ibrahim Sambo, representing the Kaduna State SSG

Mrs Saratu Binta Dikko, Chairperson of the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) explained lack of funds to conduct elections as a major constraint affecting the effectiveness of SIECs in the state to conduct elections.

Mrs. Saratu Binta Dikko, Chairperson, KADSIECOM

In his opinion, Bako Abdul Usman, National President of Campaign for Democracy called on civil society organisations to educate and sensitise citizens on the importance of local government elections.

Hon.Ahmed Tijjani Mustapha, Chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the  Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) called on the need for political parties to deepen its internal democracy and also call for equal representation in the conduct of local elections not political settlements.

The roundtable also featured a panel discussion on strengthening the election legal framework to promote electoral integrity and ended with detailing next steps for a legislative advocacy campaign for strengthening the local government election princess in Nigeria, including the formation of a coalition of CSOs that will advocate for the legislative reforms 

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