A one-day multi-stakeholders’ parley on ensuring credible and violence free state-level election in Lagos State was held at Women Development Centre, near Pen Cinema, Agege, Lagos on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
The multi-stakeholders’ parley was organized by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos-Nigeria under an election and democratic governance project tagged: Strengthening Citizens’ Engagement in Electoral Processes (SCEEP) being implemented across ten (10) States by ACTIONAID Nigeria, funded by UKAID through The Department for International Development (DFID).
About 140 persons including representatives of the Media, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Disability groups, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Religious groups, Youth associations, Women groups, Security Agencies, Student groups and other institutional stakeholders were in attendance.
Welcome remarks and goodwill messages were delivered by Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Director, IPC; Mr. Kenneth Okoinneme, Governance Advisor, ActionAid Nigeria and Mr. Damilare Babalola, Representative of DFID. Institutional Stakeholders that addressed the parley on issues relating to achieving credible and violence free elections at the event were Mr. Waheed Ishola, Director, National Orientation Agency – Lagos; ACP Edward Egbuka, Area Commander, Ogba representing the Lagos State Commissioner of Police; Mr. Adeola Soetan, Coordinator, Democracy Vanguard and Mrs. Nihinlola Aluko-olokun, a legal practitioner and member of African Women Lawyers Association.
The core objectives of the parley was to build consensus amongst the various stakeholders; the electoral management body, the security forces, the political parties and representatives of the media, civil society, youth groups, religious groups and the electorate in ensuring that the April 11, 2015 State level elections in Lagos is credible and violence free.
Following the presentations by the institutional stakeholders, there was a plenary session where other stakeholders from representatives of the civil society platforms at the parley engaged in robust interactive discussions as well as questions and answers on varying perspectives around the objectives of the parley.
The parley made the following observations:
- The Presidential and National Assembly Polls held on March 28, 2015 were relatively free, credible and violence free.
- The turnout of voters during the Presidential and National Assembly Polls was relatively low compared to previous elections and the number of registered voter.
- The introduction of Permanent Voter Card and the Card Reader by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) helped to curb multiple voting and ensured that the Presidential and National Assembly Polls were free, fair and credible.
- The late arrival of INEC officials and voting materials at polling units and the card reader malfunction resulted in late commencement of voting in some places.
- The Police and other security agencies were fully on ground on Election Day and provided maximum security during the poll.
- Some people living with disabilities were disenfranchised as a result of poor enforcement of priority voting.
- Some journalists were hindered by the Police from carrying out their duties on Election Day and some were assaulted and detained by security agencies in some parts of the country.
- The immediate concession of defeat by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan helped in dousing tension and curbing possible break out of violence following the announcement of results by INEC.
Following the discussions at the parley, participants recommended as follows:
- INEC should investigate alleged cases of underage voters and prosecute all electoral offenders found culpable.
- INEC should ensure that voting materials get to polling units on time and resolve cases of inadequacies ahead the April 11 state-level elections.
- INEC officers on election-day should announce and implement priority voting for the aged, pregnant women and people living with disabilities.
- INEC should firm up collaboration with other institutional stakeholders including the Police, NOA, CSOs and the Media towards achieving credible gubernatorial and state assembly polls in Lagos State.
- NOA should do more voter education and public enlightenment ahead of the Governorship and State Assembly polls on April 11, 2015.
- NOA should take the voter education campaign to the grassroot and strengthen their local units.
- The Police should investigate allegations of electoral offence levelled against their members and sanction erring officers.
- The Police should accord regard to journalists on Election Day and work with them as partners.
- The Police should ensure maximum security is provided at all polling units including crisis-prone areas on Election Day.
- The media should ensure fair and balanced reporting of the elections and adhere strictly to the media code of election coverage.
- Journalists reporting elections should build cordial relationship with electoral officers and security agencies and observe safety rules/tips on Election Day.
CSOs and International Agencies
- CSOs should step up voter education campaigns among the electorates.
- International development agencies should give more support to programmes that will consolidate democratic governance and build citizen participation in governance and electoral process.
- The electorate should conduct themselves in an orderly manner at the polling unit and adhere to all rules and processes related to voting.
- The electorate should safeguard their PVCs, vote on Election Day and ensure their votes are counted.
- The electorate should allow priority voting for the aged, pregnant women and people living with disabilities.
- The electorate, beyond political party and political candidates preferences should work with a common purpose that ensures that the elections is conducted in a peacefully and orderly manner.
- Community based groups and associations should provide enabling environment for the voting processing, e.g. providing chairs and temporary shelter for the aged and pregnant women to sit and wait after accreditation, etc.
- The youth should resist attempts by politicians and parties to use them as tools to perpetrate electoral malpractices and violence.
- Religious leaders should preach and pass the message of violent free and peaceful elections during services.
- Candidates and their parties should adhere strictly to the rules of the game and desist from fomenting electoral violence.
- Candidates and their parties should accept the outcome of the elections in good faith.
- Candidates and political parties who are aggrieved should follow laid down procedures to seeking redress and not resort to making provocative statements that can instigate violence.
The participants acknowledged that the parley was timely and highly beneficial and commended ActionAid Nigeria and DFID for supporting IPC to organize the parley.