Nigerian youths chart roadmap for 2015 poll
Ahead of the 2015 General Election, Nigerian youths seem to have developed a template to ensure that they are carried along as important stakeholders in the country’s political and project.
Young people from the country’s 36 states recently stormed Abuja in a conference where they critically undertook a holistic appraisal of the election climate and architecture.
The National Youth Conference was also aimed at harnessing the real participatory power of young people, their readiness to get involved in the electoral process, develop strategies and collaborations for effective youth engagement in the 2015 elections and beyond.
The conference was jointly organised by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Youth Alliance on Constitution and Electoral Reform (YACORE) in collaboration with the Democratic Governance for Development Project of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP/DGD).
The Conference drew over two hundred participants from youth civil society organisations, Ministry of Youth Development, political parties, media organisations, socio-cultural groups, religious organisations and international development partners.
The gathering also benefitted from shared experiences of participants from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and the United Kingdom. Three national commissioners and directors of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) represented the electoral commission at the conference.
The conference noted that there are remarkable improvements in Nigeria’s electoral process following the appointment of the current leadership of the INEC, especially, in the area of election management, voter registration and increased citizens trust and confidence in the electoral process.
Despite the obvious improvements in the country’s electoral process, Nigerian youths said the electoral process is still fraught with perennial electoral challenges like defective voters register, poor management of election logistics and low voter education.
They also decried the non-prosecution or slow prosecution of electoral offenders. The Conference expressed concern that perpetrators of the 2011 post-election violence, those involved in multi-registrations as well as those alleged to have compromised in the 2013 Anambra State Governorship Election were yet to be prosecuted.
The forum raised questions over the preparedness of the commission for the 2015 polls, the uncertainty of the official commencement of the National Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) and distribution of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) by the INEC.
The gathering also frowned at the growing trend by politicians to compromise electoral officials which it noted has tendency to undermine the entire electoral process and cast doubt on the integrity of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
They urged the National Assembly to revisit the Justice Uwais Committee’s Report with a view of mainstreaming its recommendations into the ongoing electoral reform.
The youths were of the firm belief that the present political situation in the National Assembly has great potentials of throwing electoral reform and constitution review into jeopardy. They lamented that Nigerian that some legislators are more focused on promoting personal and party agenda rather than focus on people-centered legislations.
A communiqué issued at the end of the Conference recommended that INEC should be more transparent and proactive in addressing electoral challenges in order to restore citizens’ trust and confidence in the electoral process.
Following the release of the 2015 election timetable, they said INEC should as a matter of urgency, commence the continuous voters registration and distribution of permanent voters’ card.
They urged INEC to collaborate effectively with youth civil societies and media organisations in conducting timely and robust issue-based voter education ahead of the continuous voters registration, distribution of the permanent voters’ card and the 2015 elections.
The communiqué also urged the National Assembly to ensure that the review of the Electoral Act 2010 is giving a priority this year. They also recommended that the National Assembly should ensure adequate budgetary allocation to INEC in the 2014 and 2015 Appropriation Bills.
Youth and civil societies were urged to support INEC to deliver credible polls in the forthcoming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states and the 2015 general elections and to also collaborate with INEC in conducting continuous voters and civic education to increase the value of citizens’ participation in the electoral process.
They solicited the support of international donors in providing more technical and financial support to youth organisations engaged in election related work.