June 17, 2024

Yiaga Africa tasks electorates on deeper consciousness of LG polls

Yiaga Africa, a Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria has challenged electorates at the local level to awaken their consciousness on issues about local government elections by not just voting at the polls but participating fully at the governance process.

The Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwa Nwagwu, who gave the charge during an Advocacy Roundtable on Legislative Reform for Improved Local Government Elections in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital,

observed that local government elections have not been accorded the right attention.

Nwagwu, in his Keynote Address tagged, “Local Government Elections: A Necessity for Democratic Development,” described local government election as important tool for deepening of democracy but regretted that such was almost illusory as local government elections have been allegedly “ambushed” by the governors, thereby making the party in power to take it all.

He, therefore urged other civil society organisations including the media, to intensify efforts in carrying out voter and civic education at the grassroots so that people will be conscious of governance vis a vis budgets of the local government.

His words, “There is no critical questioning of issues of governance within the local government level. Budget is made at the local government level but no one seems to question how these are done. There should be a deeper consciousness of sub national elections so that there will be full participation. Crimes will reduce when local governments work and function optimally.

“Where we should learn democracy is at the sub-national level but it’s difficult because, because of the ambush of that structure by the Chief executive of the states, the ruling party of that state takes about 97 Percent of the vote cast in election even the opposition parties are not even interested in going to court.”

In her presentation, Cynthia Mbamalu said election is not just a political process but a human right issue that should be exercised by legible voters.

Mbamalu, who noted that Akwa Ibom is one the States taking the lead in reviewing its State Electoral Law

explained that the last electoral act enables financial autonomy for INEC and same should be applied to SIEC to enable the body function optimally.

The Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission, Aniedi Ikoiwak, blamed the limitations of local government elections on loopholes of the constitution, querying why the constitution was silent on the required tenure of the council chairmen, unlike the president at the national level and the governors at the state level.

He noted that instead of calls to scrap SIEC, efforts should be made to strengthen it for the development and workability of the local government.

Also speaking, Safiya Bichi of Yiaga Africa urged the CSOs to look out for the factors restricting citizens participation in elections and tinker with ways of addressing them by reawakening their interests through vigorous voter education.

The Chairman, Correspondents Chapel of the NUJ, Anthony Bassey, identified voter apathy as a potent factor undermining elections at the grassroots, noting that people already have a predetermined mindset that governors had already picked their loyalists.

He called on lawmakers to strengthen some of the legislations as well as the CSOs to constantly engage the media with the aim of unravelling some of the electoral infractions.

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