Osogbo/Ado-ekiti, Friday, 14/03/2014 – In line with the global principles of election observation, African Charter on Elections, Democracy Governance(ACDEG), observers comprising civil society activists, youth leaders and digital media activists were deployed by Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Youth Alliance on Constitution & Electoral Reform (YACORE) and Partners for Electoral Reform (PER) with support from Democratic Governance for Development of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP/DGD 11). The ongoing observation is part of a citizens driven initiative aimed at providing citizens oversight on the electoral process in a bid to deepen electoral governance, promote credible elections and effective citizens participation.
Having carefully observed the registration process since its commencement on Wednesday 12th March 2014, we make the following interim observations;
Commencement of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) Exercise
Unlike the PVC distribution exercise that started early, the CVR exercise commenced very late in most registration centers covered by our observers. This was occasioned by the late distribution of materials at the local government level such that registration of voters commenced in most centers at noon. No doubt this casts doubts on the preparedness of INEC to surmount logistical challenges ahead of the governorship elections and the general elections in 2015. Our observation on the perennial logistical challenge of INEC so far has revealed that while the top echelons of INEC are striving to make the exercise work, its lower rung, particularly, the Electoral officers at the local government level are hell bent on sabotaging the process as most instances of the late deployment of machines are directly attributable to their actions/inactions. We call on INEC to hold its officials accountable in discharge of their duties.
Low Voters Education and Poor Communication
The challenges faced by prospective registrants during the CVR exercise is disheartening, many first time registrants experienced difficulty in locating their registration centers. This is partly premised on the decision of INEC to conduct registration at the ward level as against the normal practice of registering at the polling units. While we acknowledge the cost effectiveness of the initiative, the challenge experienced by voters would have been surmounted by a robust communication of this initiative ahead of the exercise. We call on INEC and relevant stakeholders to immediately commence robust voters education exercise ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States. We also implore INEC to improve its channels of communication particularly at the local level.
As the exercise enters its third day, INEC continues to be bedeviled by capacity challenges. Insufficient deployment of staff still remains a challenge. Technical hitches were also experienced with the DDC machines and it appears the capacity of the registration officers are poor. The importance of adequate training of adhoc staff ahead of electioneering activities such as this cannot but be over emphasized. We call on INEC to conduct timely and intensive capacity building training exercises for its adhoc staff ahead of the forthcoming elections.
Conduct of Political Parties
The importance of political parties in the sustenance of our electoral democracy cannot be overemphasized, but since the beginning of this CVR exercise, the lack of cohesion amongst parties remains obvious. There has been lots of intimidation of registrants and observers by political party agents deployed toa the registration centers. The Political parties are also involved in facilitating under age registration of voters. In most of the wards observed children as young as 12 years were led to register by party stalwarts. It must be noted that these actions are likely to lead to violent conflicts if not immediately contained. Political parties are reminded that not only are they bound by the Code of conduct for Political Party which they voluntarily attested to, but also that Nigerians are weary of violent conflicts and unnecessary overheating of the polity. We commend INEC for its timely response to reports of underage voting in some wards, particularly in its demand for birth certificate as a means of age authentication.
We call on the general citizenry to actively engage in the CVR exercise, as well as shun all forms of violence, rumour mongering and tale bearing. Nigeria is our county and as critical stakeholders should join hands with INEC towards making the exercise a successful one albeit all the above mentioned challenges.
Head, Research, Policy & Advocacy
Chair, Partners for Electoral Reform
Bukhari Mohammed Bello Jega
Deputy National Coordinator, YACORE
South-West Zonal Coordinator, YACORE