By Sheriff Mahmud Ismail
The delegation of the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) has held a conversation with a cross section of Abuja based civil society organisations in Nigeria.
The meeting which took place at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GEJ) head office included YIAGA Africa, the Centre for Democracy and Development, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre, the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, the Women’s Right Advocacy and Protection Alternative and the CLEEN Foundation.
Also, at the GEJ headquarters, the delegation met with former Governor of Anambra State and the presidential aspirant of the Labour Party Mr Peter Obi, along with his party chair, Julius Abare. Mr Obi emphasized on the need for peaceful, credible, inclusive and transparent elections.
At the Independent National Electoral Commission, the WAEF delegation further interacted with the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, together with the full complement of commissioners and senior cadre of staff of the Commission. All the deliberations were particularly insightful and provided the delegation a colourful picture of the state of preparedness of INEC, as well as the challenges stakeholders are concerned about.
The delegation acknowledged the sheer logistical challenges in conducting presidential elections in Nigeria. The reason is not far-fetched considering that the total number of registered voters in Nigeria supersedes the total number of registered voters in the rest of West Africa by 20 million.
For the February 2023 polls, over 94 million people have registered to vote in over 146,000 polling stations across 491 constituencies.
The WAEF delegation therefore welcomed INEC’s determination to effectively utilise technology, particularly in the critical phases of transmission and publication of results. WAEF further noted INEC’s assurances that the stakeholders’ concerns are being addressed and that every eligible voter shall be accorded the right to vote peaceful transparent, inclusive and credible elections.
In the meantime, the Forum also added its voice in urging all registrants to endeavour to collect their Personal Voter Cards (PVC) from 12 December to 22 January as stipulated by INEC.
At the same time, it encourages the Commission to, as it has indicated, increase the number of points of collection of PVCs.
WAEF has expressed its determination to stay engaged with the Commission and other stakeholders now, during and after the elections until a peaceful transition is achieved.
The Forum delegation, led by former president Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, included the former vice president of the Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajah and the former head of the United Nations Office of West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.