A foreign elections observer group, Pan-African Women Projects Observation Mission, has called on election stakeholders in Nigeria to intensify sensitization and voter education as a means of increasing citizen’s participation in civic responsibilities.
The group made the call on Thursday as part of a communique representing their post- election observations of the just concluded 2019 general elections.
Addressing newsmen in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, the group decried the low level of voter turnout witnessed, especially during the presidential poll, and challenged the National Orientation Agency, Independent National Electoral Commission, Civil Society Organisations and other agencies to square up on the challenges for future elections.
The communique, which was read by the Ebonyi State Coordinator of the group, Lebogang Mkhize, also advocated for creation of youth employment by the government and other social securities as a means of curbing political thuggery, which they observed was a product of idleness.
They identified the need for government, religious leaders and opinion moulders to re-orient the citizens, especially the youths on political morality and the values of participatory democracy.
The group, however, noted that in spite of isolated cases of violence in Ezza North and Afikpo South Council areas, the elections in Ebonyi State could be adjudged as free, fair and credible.
They called on all parties to accept the outcome as the will of the electorates rather than a do or die affair.
Part of the communique reads: “That there is need for aggressive civic sensitization campaign to be carried out by INEC, the National Orientation Agency, Civil Society organisations and the Government of the State in social values, civic responsibilities and obligations of the citizenry as well as the need for the electorates to key into government programmes and participate actively to move the State forward.
“From our assessment as neutral body in the entire election: the Presidential polls of 23rd February, 2019 and the gubernatorial election of 9th March, 2019 in Ebonyi State, Nigeria, has met the international standard requirements, in spite of some few challenges and pockets of violence recorded in few places.
“The election therefore, can be categorically adjudged and declared to be free, fair and credible.”
Dr. Eben Udensi, Head of Missions of the Pan-African Women Project, South Africa, setting the tone for the event, had explained that the group started in December 2018 to recruit and train the over 1,900 volunteer observers who were deployed to all the polling units across the 171 wards in the State.
Udensi further explained that the Pan-African Women Project was a non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa and regional offices in five African Countries, including Abuja in Nigeria, which is the West African regional headquarters.
According to her, apart from Ebonyi, the group had observed elections in Akwa Ibom, Kano, Ondo and Lagos States, where similar communique and press conferences were held.
Meanwhile, the Head of Domestic Observers in Ebonyi State, Ambassador Sunny Elekwa, has corroborated the reports of the Pan-African Women Projects Mission concerning the elections.
Responding to questions from newsmen at the event, Elekwa said: “On the elections that were held on the 23rd of February and 9th of March, the elections that took place in the 13 Local government councils of Ebonyi State and all the wards and polling units where the elections were held, the elections went well.”