Leaning towards proper communication of its activities on inclusivity and general participation across the length and breadth of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has organised a National dialogue with Civil Society Organisations ahead of the 2023 elections. The national dialogue, themed “Towards improved inclusivity in the 2023 elections” was organised in conjunction with
Leaning towards proper communication of its activities on inclusivity and general participation across the length and breadth of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has organised a National dialogue with Civil Society Organisations ahead of the 2023 elections.
The national dialogue, themed “Towards improved inclusivity in the 2023 elections” was organised in conjunction with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) with the support of the McArthur Foundation held at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos state on Thursday 24th November 2023.
The event was attended by top officials, including the Resident Electoral Commissioner INEC Lagos state, Mr. Olusegun Agbeja, INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of outreach and partnership, Professor Kunle Ajayi, the director of gender and inclusivity, INEC Mrs. Lakunaya Dorothy Bello, the deputy director of CSO MrsNdidi Okafor and representatives of civil society organisations, representative of PLAC, Brenda Nwosa, and the head of the INEC ICT department Lagos state, Mr. Muyiwa Majeed Yusuf.
In his opening remarks, the National Commissioner and chairman outreach and partnership Committee, Professor Kunle explained that the dialogue was organised by the commission to foster more relationships with the CSOs for general participation in coming elections. He added that since false information is on the spree during the elections period, CSOs are trusted to disseminate accurate information about the activities of the electoral body to the grassroots.
Professor Ajayi added that the dialogue was also a platform for stakeholders to have complete conversations on the inclusivity of PWDs, women, and youth with the participants to have active policies around the theme of the dialogue.
“You are aware of some misinformation/disinformation in the polity regarding the Electoral process, especially the use of technology to safeguard the integrity of our elections. Sometimes what you see and read are outright falsehoods on various social media platforms.
“The Commission has been doing its best to put out accurate information on the Electoral Process to ensure that the electorate makes informed choices on election day. Civil Society Organizations are important stakeholders in the electoral process. They are also voter education providers, assisting the Commission to step down electoral messages to the grassroots”, he said.
The director of gender and inclusivity, INEC Mrs. Lakunaya Dorothy, in her speech, said the elections umpire is committed to inclusiveness in its policy. She noted that beyond conversations and round table meetings, INEC is an institution that puts its policies into action. She added that the commission has developed different policies to close the gender gap, give the youths a nudge to participate actively, and deepen the involvement of PWDs in the electioneering process.
“The focus of this presentation is the inclusiveness of marginalised groups in the 2023 General Election. As an institution that is inclusive in its practices, policies, and processes. INEC will always cherish its partnership with critical stakeholders to facilitate the development of various electoral cycle-based interventions and activities that will encourage the participation of marginalized groups in the electoral process. The SPA sets a long-term action plan for funding and personnel training to make it easier for sustainable implementation of electoral inclusive policies of the Commission.
“In its resolve to contribute to closing the gender gaps in the polity, the Commission adopted the INEC Gender Policy in November 2014. This was reviewed and we now have the INEC Gender Policy (2021-2025). The policy has four broad objectives to guide its implementation.INEC recognizes the critical role young people play in deepening democracy.
“Democracy can only develop & endure when all segments of the society are free to participate actively in the electoral process & influence political outcomes without suffering bias or reprisal. In a demonstration of its commitment to deepening the inclusive electoral process, the Commission developed INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process which was a great step towards achieving the goal of inclusivity”, Mrs. Bello said.
She, therefore, urged civil society organisations to join the electoral commission in achieving the goals set to ensure participation in the coming polls.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Agbeja in his interactions with the CSOs noted that the event was another step forward for the commission to achieve credible elections in 2023. He indicated that the roles of Civil Society Organisations are essential in the country’s democratic process, adding that INEC will not slack off to discharge its duties as expected.
“INEC as the statutory Organization saddled with the responsibilities of conducting elections in the country has continued to engage critical partners and stakeholders in order to give the widest audience the necessary voter awareness, sensitization, and programme designed by the Commission to herald a new administration into elective positions come 2023.
“Today’s interactive session with the CSOs is not an exception but routinely organized by the Commission in collaboration with the Policy and Advocacy Centre towards the achievement of free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive elections because the CSOs have significant and essential roles to play in the outcome of the forthcoming 2023 General Elections”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Brenda Nwosa, commended INEC for its dedication towards the 2023 elections. She also highlighted the roles of Civil Society Organisations in reshaping Nigeria’s electoral process for the better, pointing at how CSOs have promoted inclusivity and participation in the history of Nigeria’s election.
“It is without a doubt that CSOs play a large role in shaping the electoral culture as watchdogs against corruption and as educators of citizens’ rights. CSOs deal with a wide range of issues when we are thinking of women’s empowerment, Legal reform, and human rights. Under PLAC, we have been supporting the department of gender inclusivity in sense of promoting marginalised groups in elections like Persons With Disabilities and young persons to participate in the elections and that’s because we seek to strengthen the quality of Nigeria elections in the swing ways how we can implement and strengthen the legal framework and see that citizens can express their needs and in doing so hold public institutions accountable”, Ms. Nwosa said.
She urged the electoral commission to add all recommendations given concerning inclusivity by the CSOs into its legal frameworks. Urging the CSOs to synergise with the INEC, she noted that working with the electoral body is going to improve the country’s election in 2023.
Mr. Muyiwa Majeed Yusuf, who represented the INEC Director of the ICT department, Engineer Paul Omokore, insisted that the commission will be using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation Machine System(BIVAS). He noted that the use of BIVAS will help the commission conduct a free and fair election in 2023.