The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria has sought the support of different groups in improving awareness and participation for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chairmanship and Area Council Elections scheduled for April 9.
During an FCT-INEC Voter education sensitisation forum held on Monday at the Newton Park Hotel, Zone 4, Abuja, INEC canvassed the support of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs), Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs).
Director of Voter Education and Publicity Department of the Commission, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said the meeting was held with the realisation that INEC alone could not conduct all the voter education.
“To do this needs all the support and buy-in of all segments of the society, and this is one of those specially targeted outreaches that we do. Democracy is all about participation, it is all about choosing our representatives in a fully informed manner,” he said.
The Director pointed out that “where a huge percentage of citizens cannot participate in the process for one reason or the other or are excluded due to policies and processes, then there is something wrong and any election conducted in that atmosphere cannot be said to be credible or free and fair”.
Closer To The Electorate
On her part, the Deputy Director in charge of CSOs, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony, stressed that the forum was convened due to the premium placed on the roles of CSOs, CBOs, FBOs and PLWDs in the electoral process by the Commission.
“The Commission appreciates the fact that for the electoral process to be successful, all component stakeholders must be brought together. For any process to be free and fair it must be inclusive,” she emphasised.
Mrs Oriaran-Anthony stressed that the Commission was doing everything to ensure that everybody, irrespective of status or ability, accessed the electoral process.
“For some time now, we have taken our relationship with CSOs to a higher level because we realize that you are closer to the grassroots and closer to the electorate. You have the platform and machinery in place to take the right messages to the people,” she observed.
Mrs Oriaran-Anthony explained that the Commission had taken into cognisance the challenges faced by PLWDs in accessing voter education materials and messages and was leaving no stone unturned to ensure this was addressed.
She said: “The Commission has come up with various innovations to carry them along, such as the introduction of sign language interpreter in all Commission’s activities such as the INEC Half Hour and jingles for PLWDs”.
She welcomed suggestions from participants on how the Commission could improve the process.
The representative of International Foundation Electoral Systems (IFES), Mrs Mufuliat Fijabi, said “IFES is happy to collaborate with INEC, as voter education is highly of interest to IFES”.
She said IFES was working hand-in-hand with INEC to ensure voter education was far reaching.
“A rich democracy is one that is inclusive. That is why issues of PLWDs are of topmost priority in terms of having a sustainable democracy in Nigeria,” she stressed.