Alex Enumah in Abuja
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), has reiterated the call for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate the prosecution of electoral offenders.
The call which is predicated on the outcome of the off-cycle governorship election in Bayelsa State, it said, is would serve as a deterrence to other intending offenders.
“In view of our pre-election, preliminary and post-election observations/findings during the election, FIDA Nigeria recommends the following to deepen the democratic process in Nigeria ahead of subsequent off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo State in 2024 and the general elections in 2027.
“We seek the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate in the prosecution of electoral offenders observed to have committed any form of electoral offence in contravention of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) which will serve as deterrence to other intending offenders”, the Country Vice President/National President, Amina Agbaje said.
Besides, she urged that for future elections in Bayelsa state and given the below average voter turnout in the concluded governorship election, INEC should embark on high-level dialogues with key stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders to encourage the participation of more female electorates and citizens in general to exercise their franchise at subsequent elections.
FIDA Nigeria said that it observed from INEC official results that 291,212 persons exercised their franchise at the polls from a total of 1,056,862 million registered voters in the state.
“This indicates that about 27.55 per cent of registered voters actually participated in the polls with about 72.45 per cent abstaining from the voting process, the lowest since 2011.
“The turnout is lower than 2019, 2015, and 2011 governorship elections where about 54.83 per cent, 35.15 per cent, and 78.90 per cent of the total voting population respectively exercised their franchise accordingly.
“The implication of this outcome means that more female voters who constituted about 46 per cent of female registered voters in this election did not exercise their franchise.
“We believe that threats and perpetration of physical violence pre-election militated against women participation in the polls. Consequently, there needs to be an improved voter’s awareness strategy by all stakeholders towards ensuring an increase in the voting population in subsequent elections”, Agbaje added.
Overall, the federation commended the outcomes of the election pointing out that it aligned with its preliminary statements / findings which indicated that the elections were generally peaceful with adequate security and logistical arrangements provided by the security agencies and the electoral umpire.
FIDA Nigeria however noted that the election was marred with late arrival of electoral officials and materials as only 28.6 per cent of polling units had sensitive and non-sensitive materials as at 8.30am.
“The election was free and fair in polling units except with the incidents of vote buying occurring in 52.9 per cent of the polling units by leading political parties between the sum of N5, 000 to N30,000 respectively”, she added.