We are committed to deepening democratic process in Nigeria…EU

We are committed to deepening democratic process in Nigeria…EU

The European Union has re-stated its avowed commitment and resolve to deepening democratic process in Nigeria, saying this is a sure way to guarantee a better life for the diverse people of Africa’s most populous nation. Speaking at the formal launch of its Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (SDGN) project in Abuja, Head of

The European Union has re-stated its avowed commitment and resolve to deepening democratic process in Nigeria, saying this is a sure way to guarantee a better life for the diverse people of Africa’s most populous nation.

Speaking at the formal launch of its Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (SDGN) project in Abuja, Head of EU Delegation, Mr Ketil Karlsen says, “We are not just doing a launch of the project but laying the basis for enjoyment of fundamental human rights in Nigeria. Without democracy, there’ll be no stable environment and without a stable environment, we’ll not be able to guarantee rights to the Nigerian people”.

While disclosing that the EU-SDGN is a whooping 26.5 million Euros (N1.2 billion) project involving 10 local and international partners in five different components, he says that the EU has a “long term commitment to promoting democracy in Nigeria”.

“Since 1999, we have provided 100 million Euros to support the democratic process which translates to N44.5 billion at the present exchange rate. Building democracy is a painstaking task but we’ll get there. There’s no doubt that in our collaboration with the country, this is our flagship project, it’s our crown jewel in our support and in our partnership”, Karlsen quips.

“We have supported democratic building in Nigeria since 1999. We are partnering with 10 different national and international institutions in this project to make sure it’s a big success. The European Union will continue to support democratic consolidation in the country”.

Elated at the participation of vulnerable groups like youth, women and the Albinos, he says “We are particularly delighted to have women, youth and other vulnerable and marginalised groups in this process. We are also happy with the inclusion of the Albinos in this project. The chain is never stronger than its weakest link”.

“It’s important that all the partners are involved in this gathering. It is our aim to contribute to the building of the democratic process. The participating organisations are not supposed to live in silos but to reach out to one another in order to achieve the objective of the project. I see a lot of dynamism in the youth and women groups and not including them in this project will mean a great injustice”.

The project according to Karlsen, covers support to the National Assembly on legislations, partnership with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on credible and transparent elections and strengthening the role of security forces.

“We are supporting political pluralism, greater intra party democracy and transparency in political campaigns and promotion of fair and balanced reporting by the media. We are also supporting women participation and the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised groups in the democratic process”, he says.

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Vice President of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mr Jose Manuel Pinto-Teixeira says, “I’m honoured to take part in the launch of the democratic programme in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy. I wish to express our profound appreciation to the European Union and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning”.

“We are happy to work with the development partners to ensure that we support democracy in Nigeria in consonance with the priorities of the government. Our work with INEC is focused on protecting the integrity of the electoral process”.

He says the work of ECES is to focus on electoral assistance in Africa and the Middle East which are the regions where the European member states have provided much fund.

“We are here in Nigeria to implement the component one of the democracy governance project. We’ve been working with INEC on electoral and democratic support on the basis of the recommendations of the EU observation in 2015. Our work is to implement strategy on electoral assistance project in accordance to international best practices”, he says.

Also speaking at the event, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu notes that the task ahead of his commission is quite herculean.
“We have conducted 170 elections since 2015. We have been conducting elections after elections. We have 68 political parties and another 100 applications for new political parties. With the proposal for independent candidacy by the National Assembly, once that happens, you can imagine the size of the ballot paper”.

“We just conducted election in three different states three weeks ago. We also have different elections spread from Katsina to fill a federal constituency, Taraba, a state assembly constituency in Takum, and Ekiti and Osun states governorship election before the 2019 election. So for us, it is work, work and work every day. When I related our work schedule to my colleague in Germany during my recent visit, he was startled and asked me how do you cope with the hordes of election?”

Yakubu says INEC is going to conduct elections in a total of 1558 constituencies in 2019. These include one presidential constituency, 29 governorship constituencies, 109 senatorial constituencies and 360 federal constituencies. “The tenure of the FCT councils will be expiring next year and we have 68 constituencies there. Elections will be taking place in 120,000 polling units across the country. We have 49 million registered voters. We have gotten close to a million mark on the new registration of voters. We have security and logistic challenges but we shall continue to do our best”.

He disclosed that the commission has received a lot of requests from different countries in Africa like Cameroun, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan on technical assistance while the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) is supporting INEC to organise a major continental dialogue in Abuja amongst the electoral agencies in West and Southern Africa region.

While expressing delight about the EU-SDGN programme aimed at consolidating democracy in Nigeria, the INEC chairman says, “We are grateful to the EU and other development partners on transparent electoral outcomes. We’ll continue to work with the EU on the integrity of electoral outcomes. INEC welcomes support from development partners in the area of capacity building. We want to express our deep thanks to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres for sending a UN needs assessment mission to Nigeria in response to INEC’s request”.

“It is our hope that all the development partners will work on the envisaged outcomes with all the groups. We are all the more excited that this project which is meant to be implemented from 2017 to 2022 also coincides with our strategic plan, spanning from 2017 to 2021. We have already released the time table for the 2019 election. We have already invited the EU delegation to the 2019 General Election in Nigeria. The 2015 election was a watershed in Nigeria. I want to assure you all that the 2019 election will be better”, he says.

Minister of Budget and Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma in his goodwill message, says the event marks the end of the rigorous process of consultations and dialogue which led to the financing and the signing of the agreement in June, 2017 and commended the staff of his ministry and INEC for the collaboration which culminated in this milestone that we are about to launch.

Explaining that the SDGN project is informed by the positive outcome of the one earlier done between 2011 and 2015, the Minister who was represented by his Special Adviser, Mr Bassey Akpanyung, stated that the overall objective of the project is to build on democratic institutions with particular focus on the country’s 2016 to 2019 electoral process. According to him, the project is anchored on the general thrust of the current administration’s electoral reform and anti-corruption programme. The administration is committed to the integrity of electoral outcomes and the deepening of the use of technology.

“Let me express the sincere appreciation of the government to the EU in our development efforts and particularly to its contribution to our campaign in the North East. I also want to thank the INEC chairman and implore him to ensure that we achieve a greater success on the SDGN than we did previously. I want to call on other development partners to assist INEC in its heavy task”, the Minister says.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Albino Foundation, Mr Jake Epelle says his organisation is particularly delighted to be part of the SDGN project whose key word is “inclusiveness, to be able to carry along the vulnerable groups and the voiceless in the democratic process.We competed with 48 other organisations and are elated that our proposal came out tops. We are trusting God that we’ll come out tops in terms of performance. We also want to deliver, be as transparent as possible and put ourselves in the public space for evaluation”, he says.

The ten partners being funded under the EU-SDGN project are European Center for Electoral Support (ECES) – Component One: Support to INEC; Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) – Component Two: Support to National Assembly; Policy Development Centre of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) – Component Three: Support to Political Parties and Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and International Press Centre (IPC) – Component Four: Support to Media.

Others are: BBC Media Action, Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation and Westminster Foundation for Democracy – Component Five: Support to Civil Society.

Present at the event were the representative of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, representative of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Acting Director General, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Mr Jonathan Mela Juma, Executive Director of ECES, Mr Fabio Bargiacchi, members of the diplomatic corps, international development partners, the civil society, the media, representatives of the different political parties, women and youth groups.

Tony Iyare
CONTRIBUTOR
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