President Muhammadu Buhari has assured ECOWAS member states of Nigeria’s continued bilateral electoral assistance to countries in the sub-region based on need.
Buhari made the pledge while declaring open the Symposium/Biennial General Assembly of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) on Monday in Abuja.
Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said that Nigeria would continue to support democratic consolidation in the sub-region.
“One way of doing so is for the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) to take the lead through peer support.
“I have followed with keen interest, the efforts of ECONEC in this regard.
“In the last two years, ECONEC, under the leadership of the Nigerian Electoral body Chairman, has been a strong advocate for Nigeria’s bilateral electoral assistance to countries in the sub-region based on need.
“Within the limits of available resources, Nigeria has responded by providing material and technical support to ECONEC.
“The more recent examples include logistics support to Sierra Leone, deployment of experts from INEC on the request of ECOWAS and the United Nations to assist in cleaning up the voters’ register in Liberia ahead of the Presidential run-off election in 2017.
“Also the provision of voter registration equipment to Guinea Bissau which facilitated the conduct of a parliamentary election in March this year.
“I want to assure you of Nigeria’s continued assistance because credible election in our sub-region is not only good for democracy and periodic elections, it is also good for overall sub-regional stability.
“We cannot allow the failure of the political process to destabilise our countries to the extent that regional military intervention becomes inevitable as is unfortunately still the case in the sub-region,’’ he said.
Buhari said that with the successful conduct of parliamentary elections in Guinea Bissau in March, the next big step was the Presidential election in the country.
“I urge ECONEC to continue to work with ECOWAS by engaging with all stakeholders in the country for a successful Presidential election scheduled for Nov. 24, that will restore stability and eventually facilitate the withdrawal of troops,” the president said.
Buhari said that ECONEC being a platform for mutual assistance in the promotion of credible elections through experience sharing, peer learning and capacity building brought out the best electoral standards and practices in the ECOWAS region.
The president said it was significant to note that the symposium was on inclusivity.
“This is a very encouraging sign of our steady progress in ensuring that all segments of our society have a voice in the management of public affairs, especially through the democratic process.”
Buhari said it was also an indication that in spite of the progress achieved so far, more needed to be done by Governments through legislation, by political parties through affirmative action in the nomination of candidates for election.
He also stressed the need for unrelenting advocacy by all stakeholders for greater inclusion of all segments of society in the democratic and electoral processes.
“It is for this reason that before the last General Election in Nigeria, I assented to a constitutional amendment bill that reduced the age required of a candidate to contest for some elective offices.
“This followed the strong but peaceful advocacy by young men and women around the slogan of `Not-too-young-to-run’ as the bill passed by the National Assembly was popularly called.
“On the historic occasion of signing the bill into law on May 31, 2018, I hosted young persons from all the States of the Federation,” while assuring that it is just the beginning.
“We should continue to ensure that not only the youth but other categories of citizens such as persons living with disabilities and those internally displaced for a variety of reasons are integrated into the electoral process in Nigeria in particular and other countries in our sub-region in general.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the three-day symposium and general assembly is being attended by members of ECONECS from 15 countries.
He thereafter declared open the symposium with the theme “Promotion of Inclusivity in the Electoral Process”.