The Joint Nigeria International Election Observation Mission of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute on Tuesday said women now held only 3.8 per cent of seats in the 9th assembly.
Elizabeth Lewis, Acting Regional Deputy Director for Africa, IRI, said this on Tuesday while briefing newsmen on the group’s final report on the 2019 elections in Abuja.
Lewis said this percentage made Nigeria a country with the lowest level of women’s representation in any legislature in sub-Saharan Africa.
She said it was observed that in October 2018, political parties conducted primaries to select candidates for the 2019 general elections.
She said many of these processes were reportedly plagued by vote buying, rigging and confusion over location and who could participate in the process.
Lewis said in some instances, party leadership submitted candidates’ lists to the electoral commission with nominees who had not won their primaries, adding that intra and inter party disputes led to over 800 court cases.
She said: “In addition, opaque campaign financing and candidate-selection processes posed significant and disproportionate disadvantages for women and youth candidates for party leadership or elected office.
“While the 2019 elections saw more women and youth running for office, most were fielded by new minor parties with long odds of winning.
“Notably, APC (All Progressives Congress) and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) fielded only 24 and 31 women candidates respectively for bicameral National Assembly’s 4469 seats.
“The two parties had only 13 and eight legislative candidates respectively under the age of 35; as a result, the number of women elected at the national assembly level declined.”
Lewis said the paucity of women and youth nominated to run on the tickets of the two major parties demonstrated Nigerian political elites’ lack of commitment to opening space for new faces and new voices.
Prof. Remi Sonaiya, the KOWA party presidential candidate in 2015, said the issue of women not being represented in politics was a mystery because there were competent women who could hold political offices and do well.
Sonaiya called for a deliberate law backing women participation in politics, adding: “I suggest we legislate a certain position reserved for women.”
This, she said, would enhance women participation in governance.
Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director, NDI, said the NDI/IRI report looked at the challenges that came with the 2019 elections and made some suggestions to leverage on to make 2023 elections better.
Fomunyoh called on stakeholders to seriously consider the recommendations to improve the electoral process, unlike in previous years when suggestions by reputable citizens and international observation missions went unheeded.
He called for the pursuance of a comprehensive, inclusive and expeditious electoral reform process and establish time limits for the adjudication of pre-election petitions.
Fomunyoh said the report also recommended to make the continuous voter registration process more accessible to voters and reconsider the order and timing of general elections.
He said the report suggested the completion of constituency delimitation exercise and identify necessary polling units at least one year before the next elections.
He also expressed the need to create a process that facilitated suffrage for those on official duty on Election Day and adopt more transparent procedures for the tabulation, transmission and announcement of results.
The NDI official also said that the report urged political parties to urgently commit themselves to implementing measures to strengthen mechanisms for internal democracy and develop campaign on issue-based platforms that reflected citizens’ priorities.
He said the report called for continued coordination between security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission on the provision of electoral security and enforce electoral laws by investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of election-related criminal acts.