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YIAGA scores LASIEC low on preparations for local council polls


Co-founder, Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC) Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; Board Member, Yiaga Africa, Eze Nwagwu and Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu during the press conference on Friday, July 23, 2021. PHOTO: ENIOLA DANIEL

Due to low mobilization and sensitisation, there might be a low turnout of voters for the Local government elections scheduled for Saturday, civil society organisation, Yiaga Africa said on Friday.

Yiaga also faulted LASIEC for hoarding information and preventing CSOs from accreditation.

Lagosians will cast their votes at 13,323 polling units across the 20 LGAs and 37 Local Council Development Areas.

Addressing a news conference in the Ikeja, Lagos, Eze Nwagwu, a board member of the group said “a simple interaction with citizens in the streets 72 hours before the election revealed that the majority of respondents were not aware of the election.”

He made the statement when discussing the “emerging issues” regarding the Saturday polls.

Nwagwu said there is a huge gap in communication between the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC)and CSOs and election observers.

“Groups who applied for accreditation via the commission’s website as directed waited endlessly for feedback from the commission on the status of the accreditation,” he said.

“The commission ignored all online applications and requested groups to resubmit hard copy applications to its office barely 24 hours before the elections, which impacted planning for observer deployments.

“Similarly, engagement with some CSOs in the state revealed that the commission is not responding to inquiries for updates on the LGA elections.”

Mr Nwagwu said there is a possibility of limiting the participation of stakeholders especially observers. This, he said, “will raise questions of accountability and transparency by the commission.”

The group’s director of programs, Cynthia Mbamalu, said that observation shows that 12 political parties will be contesting the LGA polls, however, the campaigns were dominated by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and People Democratic Party (PDP).

She raised concerns over security saying that the election could be marred by violence due to unresolved intra-party and inter-party grievances.

Sequel to this, Yiaga Africa calls on the leadership of the APC to settle its internal disputes.

“The violent clashes that engulfed the conduct of political party primaries in some LGA’s and the pre-election cases in court also indicate unresolved grievances,” Mbamalu said.

“This calls on the leadership of parties like the APC to ensure speedy resolution in the 24hours leading to the election.”

She noted that the provisions for accreditation of the election observers remain unclear 24 hours before the polls.

She added that LASIEC shared an application online portal that was not relevant to the process. He said the body is “creating a lot of confusion on the process for observer accreditation. This challenge makes it exceedingly difficult for an independent nonpartisan organization to play their vital role as observers in the electoral process.”

She said although political parties waived off combination fees for women aspirants, it did not promote more women as party candidates.

“The PDP has only 1 woman out of 57 Chairmanship candidates and for the Vice Chairmanship position, 37 male and 20 females.

Also, she said, the party primaries in the state did not favour the emergence of young people as candidates.

“In addition, the electoral law of Lagos state limits the eligibility age for contesting for the chairmanship position to 30 years which is 5years higher than the age for contesting for the House of Representatives under the Constitution of Nigeria.

“Yiaga Africa’s engagement in the state also revealed an absence of targeted voter education activities for women, youth and persons with disabilities towards the election. With regards to the election day process, there are emerging concerns on the inclusion of people living with disabilities. For instance, the Center of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) has raised major concerns with the absence of a disability inclusion plan by the LASIEC for the LGA election.

“This is also in addition to the seeming unwillingness of the LASIEC to engage the PWD communities. Thus there are concerns the Saturday Local Government election may not have adequate plans for the electoral participation of the PWD communities.”

Mr Nwagwu charged the electoral commission to ensure early deployment of electoral materials to the poll in units.

He called on political parties to adhere to the rules governing a free and fair election.

He urged eligible voters to come out and exercise their electoral rights while they abide by the covid-19 guidelines.

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