Senate President, Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate has charged heads of election management bodies in the ECOWAS region to always deliver credible elections that would deepen democracy and good governance in West Africa.
â€œYou should collectively work for an electoral process that we can be proud of and even export to other regions,â€ the Senate president told members of the governing board of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), who paid him a courtesy visit.
Â They were led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, President of the ECONEC board and Chair of Nigeriaâ€™s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Senate president observed that some years ago a number of countries in the region were under military rule or authoritarian governments. The fact that all ECOWAS countries were now under democracy was a credit to the efforts put in by the electoral management bodies.
Senator Saraki, chair of Nigeriaâ€™s two-chamber National Assembly explained that the countryâ€™s lawmakers would continue to support election administrators to deliver credible elections in Nigeria. He cited the prompt passage of a bill for the amendment of Nigeriaâ€™s electoral law as a demonstration of this support.
Speaking earlier, Prof. Yakubu underscored the importance of credible elections to the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in the ECOWAS region and the commitment of ECONEC to the realisation of this objective.
â€œThe goal is to have an effective ECONEC that supports democracy rather than an ECOWAS military force as a result of election related conflicts,â€ the President of the ECONEC board said.
The courtesy visit to the Nigerian Senate was part of the activities organised for the ECONEC governing board members on the first of their two-day meeting in Abuja.
Welcoming his colleagues earlier at INEC Headquarters, Prof Yakubu said the conduct of regular and periodic elections was the first step towards the development of democracy and democratic governance.
â€œHowever, the contest for power and the outcome of elections, especially the perception of citizens as to whether elections are free, fair and credible can either enhance or disrupt the democratic process,â€ he stressed.
The ECONEC board chief said that given that the conduct of â€œelections has been a trigger for violent conflicts as well as a panacea for post-conflict peace building,â€ the â€œimpartiality of the election management body in the conduct of elections plays a critical role in determining whether the outcome of elections is accepted or not.â€
He told the gathering which included INEC Commissioners that the board meeting would among others, review the ECONEC 2017-2018 Work Plan, the Statute of the Network and details of the planned Solidarity and Needs Assessment Missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are holding crucial elections in October 2017 and March 2018 respectively.
Mrs. Catherine Angai, representative of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), which has been supporting ECONEC since its inception in 2008, reiterated the commitment of the NGO to good governance and credible elections in the region.
She commended EMBs in the region for working to secure their independence in the delivery of elections with integrity.