The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from UNDP organized a one day North West Zonal Town Hall meeting on Monitoring of Democratic Governance (Constitution Reforms) on Electoral Reforms in Nigeria. The meeting was attended by participants representing CSOs, CBOs, FBOs, ASUU, disable groups, women organizations and the media. There were 60 participants in attendance drawn from seven states within the zone (Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna). After critical brainstorming and discussions on the thematic issue ‘Examining Critical Issues in the ongoing Constitution amendment with Electoral Reforms in Perspective’, the participants observed as follows:
- The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires further review for it to reflect the issues of electoral reforms that would ensure national unity, citizen rights, political and socio-economic development.
- The Electoral Commission set up by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua with seven (7) Bills to address lapses and inadequacies which impinge on the quality and credibility in his own election was abandoned and this was seen as tottering on the brinks of electoral implosion.
- Free and Fair Election in Nigeria will remain a mere gong on the street, particularly at the local level until the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) is scrapped from the ongoing amendment process.
- Absence of local government autonomy has rendered most States within the North West zone incapacitated to hold Local Government elections for a period of over six (6) years. In Zamfara State, the last Local Government Election started at 6:00am and winners were announced by 8:00am.
- The rising dreadful and undemocratic political struggles among politicians and the incidents of political god-fatherism may disallow independent candidacy and speedy adjudication of electoral disputes.
- The disconnection between the CSOs and political arena has resulted to weak citizens’ participation in the electoral process in Nigeria.
The participants recommended as follows:
- The Constitution amendment process should be more inclusive and transparent to allow the final document reflect the position of the people.
- Amendments for the 1999 Constitution should provide among other things, independent candidature; funding of INEC a first line charge; scrapping of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC); additional sanctions for convicted person(s) on electoral offences/disputes by declaring such convicts unfit to stand for election for at least ten years.
- The Federal Government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should swiftly and fully implement electoral reforms as recommended by the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.
- The relevant stakeholders should lobby the State Houses of Assembly within the zone to uphold the position of the people as well as increase awareness on the subject in various constituencies.
- A Judicial body should be commissioned to trial previous electoral offences irrespective of who was involved and punished to deter as a way to provide democratic space for free, fair and credible election.
- CSOs should bridge the gap between the electorates and regulators through constant awareness creation to deepen democratic space in Nigeria.
The participants expressed gratitude to CISLAC and UNDP for embarking on the meeting channeled towards deepening democracy as well as knowledge amongst stakeholders on Electoral Reforms. They thanked the organizers noting that the engagement was revealing and indeed an opportunity to begin to create bigger conversation amongst players in the Constitutional review process.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre