By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan has assured that the ninth National Assembly, especially the Senate, will work with all stakeholders to promote efforts at providing women, youth, persons with disabilities, PWDs, internally displaced persons, IDPs and other marginalized groups with full, equal and effective participation at all levels of decision making in public life.Dr Lawan reasoned that doing so was in the best interest of politicians, who are the major beneficiaries of their votes.The Senate President President, who was represented by Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano) said this in his welcome address at the symposium and general assembly of of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions yesterday in Abuja.He pointed out that the participation of other marginalised groups of the society in the political life and electoral process in the various countries can not be over emphasized.According to him, “If democracy is about government of the people, by the people and for the people, no person should be left behind, irrespective of disability or displacement due to no fault of theirs.”Women, youths, PWDs, IDPs, and other marginalized groups are critical stakeholders in nation building.
“Therefore, the inability of these segments of our society to actively contribute their full potential to the national building process has far reaching implications for political stability and socio-economic development.”Measures should therefore be taken to enhance their popular participation and engagement with the political process, not only as voters, but also as candidates for elections and holders of leadership positions in political parties”, he said.Dr Lawan said he expects that at the end of the symposium, participants will come up with policies and strategies to close the existing gaps and open up new vistas in promoting the full, equal and active participation of women, youth, PWDs, IDPs and other marginalized groups in the electoral process to building a future that meets their needs and expectations.In his address, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who is also the chairperson of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC, extended the Network appeal to ECOWAS to continue to strive to actualize the vision of establishing the electoral logistics depot at Lungi in Sierra Leone from which countries in need can draw such facilities as ballot boxes and trucks for movement of election materials without each country having to procure its own materials with every election. Prof. Yakubu assured that this is achievable and will in the long run help to reduce the cost of elections in our sub-region.
He recalled that at the last General Assembly in Cotonou in March 2017, ECONEC formulated a two-year Action Plan focusing on the need to establish a permanent secretariat in Abuja, deepen peer support, initiate a conversation with the aim of finding ways to reduce the enormous cost of conducting elections in the sub-region, build the capacity of the media to ensure professional reporting of elections in West Africa and find ways to enhance inclusivity in the electoral process.
According to him, “Attaining these modest goals in a sub-region characterized by infrastructure and security challenges can only be realized over time. “However, since the election of the current Steering Committee at the 5th General Assembly in Cotonou, Benin Republic, in March 2017, ECONEC now has a permanent secretariat here in Abuja which makes coordination with the ECOWAS Commission easier, more so because the ECONEC Permanent Secretary is also Head of the Electoral Assistance Division of ECOWAS.
“On peer support, ECONEC undertook needs assessment, solidarity and mid-term review missions to eight (8) of the 15 members States. “This has been properly documented by the Programme Officer (Communication and Advocacy) at the ECONEC Secretariat and will be shared with participants at this symposium”, he said.