What interventions can be made to enlighten Nigerians to change the narrative and push for more inclusion of vulnerable groups like Women, youth and Persons with Disability in the electoral process and governance?
This was the very essence of the SCEEP project.
SCEEP is an acronym for Strengthening Citizens Engagement in the Electoral Process.
Over a four year period (July 2014 to March 2018) ActionAid Nigeria and BBC Media Action with support from DFID Nigeria partnered with the under listed civil society organizations to carryout interventions and implement the SCEEP Project across ten (10) states in Nigeria.
- Women United for Economic Empowerment – Akwa Ibom state
- Community Action for Popular Participation – Plateau State
- League of Democratic Women – Kaduna state
- Development Dynamics – Imo State
- Centre for Information, Technology And Development Information Aid Network – Oyo state
- Stakeholders Democracy Network – Rivers state
- Community Reach out and Poverty Alleviation Initiative – Adamawa state
- Fahimta Women and Youth Development Initiative Bauchi state
July 5th 2018 was no doubt a day that the SCEEP projects stakeholders all looked forward to.
It was a day the project dissemination was to be done. Lessons and experiences of the project were shared by the project team.
The event was a delight; the project team was honoured by the presence of six (6) resident electoral commissioners (REC’s) from the Independent National Electoral Commissions who all came from SCEEP’s project states.
Below are the REC’s who we engaged during the event:
Professor Rriskuwa Arabu Shehu – Resident Electoral Commissioner, Kano State.
Obo Effanga – Resident Electoral Commissioner, Rivers State.
Hussani Halihu – PAI – Resident Electoral Commissioner, Plateau State.
Prof Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu – Resident Electoral Commissioner, Imo State
And guess what?
We couldn’t resist the temptation of asking the REC’s to share their opinion of SCEEP and share some insights on participation of vulnerable groups in Nigeria’s electoral process. keep reading to hear what the REC’s have to say or you could just listen to the audio here:
What are the preparation towards election 2019 and how inclusive it will be for women, Persons with Disability and the youths?
Professor Riskuwa Arabu Shehu :I think if you have observed fort the past one (1) year, you would have seen more activities from INEC involving the groups we have mentioned, particularly women youth and PWD.
Let me start with the issue of women, the issue of gender, I think the policy guideline of INEC has taken care of how women will participate at internal level.
Externally, the engagement of a number of CSO’s that are involved with this sensitization and the need to involve more women in the politics of our country is there.
INEC is very conscious of the need and will continue to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that there is a lot of improvement in terms of women participation
The issue of youth, we have gone a step further with the signing of the bill of the #NotTooYoungToRun.
INEC is a major collaborator as to pushing to some of these amendments that are needed to allow more increase in participation.
Person with disabilities are also given a lot of attention, recently, just last month there was a special retreat in Cross Rivers where the major issues as its affects PWD where discussed.
How do we make them to feel involve?
How do we encourage them to participate not to only in the initial processes and even up to the level of election, how do we make it convenient for them, all these are issues been discussed at the commission and I’m sure the attention this groups are getting now is an improvement as to what we had in 2015.
We are hopefully that certainly these groups will confirm that INEC on its part within its own limit is able to address some of the challenges they are facing
There is a lot of compliant on social media about access to registration points. People complaining about not being able to get to registration points.
What is INEC doing as an institution to address accessibility to registration Points?
Obo Effanga: Let me take that!
Because one of the reason, as I am active on social media. Some of those complaints I get to know, people will write on Facebook and my friends will tag me and I have had a lot of instance where I help resolve it.
One of the things I have observed is that from the experiences I have seen, a lot of times Nigerians do not take the time to understand the process.
You find a situation for instance: For every INEC office in a local government, CVR (i.e. Continuous Voters Registration) is happening there.
Some of those INEC office(s) is located in the same premises as those local government secretariats for that local government area.
People who want to go and assess our services in the CVR centres, they go there, go to the local government offices or at the main gate and people corner them and say “you want to register,” they say “yes” and they now try to process for them instead of allowing them to get to INEC office.
So we have had instances where by the time we investigate, the person did not get to INEC office but we have made the point very well.
Since you are talking of social media, INEC is on social media.
INEC headquarters has a Facebook page, twitter handle and even INEC in the states, like my state Rivers we have our Facebook page.
Twitter – @inecnigeria
Facebook – @INEC Nigeria
When I was in Edo, we also had a Facebook page where people can follow and now we even have an app “My INEC”.
I encourage people to download these and then follow and there is also a website for people to crosscheck some of these things but the basic point is that CVR is done in every INEC office for a local government area depending on how large the local government there may be one or two registration point outside there.
Another mistake people make is they think where you register is where you vote. That’s why they say “it’s too far from where I stay” but you can register in any CVR centre in that local government area.
You tell where you live they will assign you to a polling unit nearest to you.
Outside that, there is also provision of moving where in that LGA after stakeholders meeting they arrange and say for the next 2 weeks we would be in this location that is in addition to the permanent registration going on the INEC office.
So for the next two weeks we will be in this location, for the next we will be here, we will spend two days here.
That is sure, what I do in my state, this information each electoral officer in the local government sends me their schedule, we share that on the social media and of course, we also use radio and television.
We all agree that Nigerians do not really read. Does INEC all of this information in a place where we can reference where people can go to see this information?
Obo Effanga: Yes, I said we have a website!
And all of this information’s are there?
Obo Effanga: Yes, it is there. And we also have information centres. If you download the app my INEC, all the information are there.
We also have dedicated lines, information centres; even the twitter handle if you tweet @inecnigeria someone will respond to you.
Another burning issue on social media is the cost of purchase of forms for aspiring persons.
With the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, we have seen an increase in the number of young people who want to participate in this process but they cannot afford it because the cost of the form by the political parties are quite high, What is INEC doing about this?
Hussani Halihu: You know that the law makes it such that we cannot control the processes of the political parties.
Obo Effanga: For me as an individual, I feel that it is wrong for political parties to fix charges for a person who seek their tickets but that’s what they do.
The law also makes it in such a way that whoever they bring to us as candidate whether the person took part in the primaries or not, or paid money or not, we are bound to accept whoever they present as candidate.
Prof Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu: As a follow up, there is a new amendment. The National Assembly is coming out; I think they are through with the amendment.
They have uniformed the agendas of political parties. It is no longer dependent on the political parties at the end of the day. If you are going for president, whether you belong to party A or B, you pay the same amount. They are also pegging the amount for nomination from house of assembly to presidency.
But, of course we cannot end this discussion without talking about Persons with Disability, what measures is INEC putting in place to make their participation in the electoral process, particularly in 2019 to make it easy for them during the voting exercise?
Hussani Halihu: In one of our meetings in the commission (INEC), we have agreed and being given a checklist of the facilities the standard of how our polling centre should be, availability of conveniences like light, ramps for the PWD.
Like in Plateau, the state government owns these facilities.
We have given the state government a brochure of the centres and the facilities that are required for the government to make available for the PWD.
As it relates to the people that are either visually challenged or having hearing impairment, there are training that are going on between INEC and sponsored organisations such as IFES to make it easy for them to understand so that on election day they will have grasped what the process will be like.
Prof Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu: In addition, even why the registration is going on, we give them priorities; we do not keep them waiting.
There are three categories of people we give priorities: aged, PWD, pregnant women, nursing mothers and it goes for election; it is like the commissions policy.
The commission is now perfecting a document that defines the inclusivity PWD and incorporating some of the things we have talked about.
Even within INEC, in terms of employment and other activities like contractual organisation, we want to ensure that a given percentage will be retired to them.
Yes SCEEP as a project has ended but electoral irregularities, violence and exclusion of vulnerable groups still persist.
The SCEEP Story therefore must continue.
What are your thoughts on Nigeria’s Electoral System?
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