Civil Society initiate popular actions on Electoral Reform
Communiqué of 1-Day Multi Stakeholders Meeting on the Report of Electoral Reform Committee Organized by Constitutional Reform Dialogue Mechanism (CRDM) at Rockview Hotel, Abuja on Monday, 23 rd March, 2009
A 1-day multi stakeholders meeting on the report of Electoral Reform Committee held under the auspices of the Constitutional Reform Dialogue Mechanism (CRDM) on Monday 23rd March, 2009 at Rockview Hotel, Abuja.
The meeting was attended by a wide-range of stakeholders and actors in the political process who represented platforms of civil society, political parties, women and youth, persons with disabilities, professionals, ethnic and nationality formations, politicians, labour and trade unions, media, coalitions on electoral and constitutional reforms as well as local and international partners on electoral and constitutional reforms.
Those present at the meeting include Eminent political actors like Alhaji Lateef Jakande former governor of Lagos State, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Dapo Sarumi, former Information Miniter, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chair of the CNPP & PRP, Hon Rasheed Shitta Bay, Chairman, Alliance for Democracy, AD, Chief Olu Falae, former presidential candidate & Chairman of DPA, Alhaji Lai Mohammed representing the Action Congress, Dr Arthur Nwankwo, Chairman of PMP, Chief Charles Nwodo of PAC, Senator Sulaimon Salawu, Chairman, Action Alliance, Mallam Yinusa Tanko of NCP,Mr Osita Okechukwu of CNPP, Ambassador Diran Fagboungbe, Prof Sam Egwu- former Chair of CRDM, Mr Wale Okunniyi of PRONACO,
Others are Comrade Chris Uyot, representing NLC, Mr Gbenga Onayiga representing NUJ, Mrs Biola Akiode Afolabi of WARDC, Mallam Danlami Barshir of JONAPD, Barr. Nurudeen Ogbara of MAC, Mr Francis Abayomi of PEDEP, Mr Maxi Okwu of CPP, Prof. Patrician Donli, Dr Mrs Umar,Chief Winston Odumu- Ojobi of UNPP, Mrs Amina Salihu, Dr Otive Igbuzor of Action Aid, Barr Festus Okoye of Human Rights Monitor, Mr Jide Ojo of IFES among many other Activists and party stalwarts
Apologies and goodwill messages were sent to the meeting by Dr Tunji Braithwaite, Leader of NUD and NAP, Chief John Nwodo Jnr, Comrade SOZ Ejiofor of the Labour Civil Society Coalition, LASCO among others.
The meeting further observed as follows:
1. The need to publish recommendations of Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee to keep Nigerians abreast with outcome of their engagement with the process.
2. That position of the government as represented by the white paper is at variance with popular views expressed by Nigerians in the course of ERC’s consultations and deliberations on the electoral process.
3. That the white paper demonstrates failure on the part of political leadership to keep faith with the yearnings for genuine democracy amongst the generality of Nigerians and, in particular, the insincerity of the Yar’ Adua administration to bring about credible electoral reform.
4. That the setting up of separate committee to streamline recommendations submitted by ERC amounts to usurpation of the mandate of Justice Uwais Committee by the presidency.
5. That desperation by politicians to pursue personal interests through flawed electoral system was responsible for the attempts to undermine popular the popular wishes of the Nigerians as contained in the recommendation by ERC.
6. That failure to enact a new electoral system that reflects the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians ahead of 2011 general elections portend grave dangers and consequences for democratic consolidation.
7. That removal of powers of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) in respect of conduct local government elections offends spirit and letter of true federalism.
8. That recommendation vesting National Judicial Council (NJC) with roles in the appointment of the Chairman of Independent Electoral Commission does not conflict or distract with the principle of separation of powers as claimed by the government.
9. That ERC recommendation with respect to the involvement of NJC only relates to advertisement of the position of INEC Chairman and short-listing of candidates whose names would be forwarded to National Council of State after which the National Assembly will ratify such appointment.
10. That participation of women and the people with disabilities in the political process should be enhanced through entrenchment of affirmative action in the electoral process.
The stakeholders meeting:
1. Rejects the white paper released by the federal government considering that popular wishes and aspirations of Nigerians have been grossly misrepresented.
2. Demands that the original report of the Electoral Reform Committee be released, without further delay, (with brailed version) to enable Nigerians better educated and mobilized towards popular agitation for credible electoral process.
3. Affirms that Justice Uwais’ recommendations remain the basis for electoral reform. Notwithstanding however, the meeting also demands that other relevant inputs that may be put forward through further consensus should be incorporated in the report.
4. Resolves to initiate a process of protests through rallies, processions and mass disobedience by popular platforms to convey citizens’ opposition to the manipulation of electoral reform process.
5. Calls on political parties to play critical role in mobilizing popular consciousness to forestall attempts by government and politicians to undermine collective aspirations of the Nigerian people for credible electoral process.
6. Demands that security agents and particularly the police as well as other critical stakeholders such as the media would be engaged through sensitization and awareness creation to make them relevant in deepening democracy.
7. Calls on the media to be more active in defending democracy by ventilating popular views against the positions of government with critical attention paid to the contending issues in constitutional reform process.
8. Calls on Nigerians to pursue electoral reform process to logical conclusion by building a common network comprising of allies in the civil society and other stakeholders in the political community, including the legislature in the 36 States and the national assembly, media, Nigerian Bar Associations, (NBA) and other professional groups as well as security agencies amongst others.
9. Demands the setting up of a committee of stakeholders to further deliberate on emerging issues on electoral reform and to coordinate future plan of actions by the civil society and other stakeholders.
10. Calls for partnership with grassroots platforms to deepen participation in electoral reform process at the community level.
11. Resolves to initiate a proposed bill to serve as model for advocacy actions aimed at bringing about credible electoral reform.
The meeting noted that Nigerians are yet to reap the dividends of democracy a decade after restoration of civil rule and deliberated extensively on the need for credible elections and stable political process. The meeting therefore warned that government rejection of some vital recommendations in the ERC Report poses critical challenges to the future of democracy in Nigeria as no credible elections would be possible if the president retains the power to appoint the chairman of INEC.
The multi stakeholders meeting to this end insist on the need for coordinated advocacy towards engaging political actors vested with responsibilities to review Electoral Act as well as the Constitution.
Earlier the meeting received presentations from experts on constitutional and electoral democracy who spoke on Implications of the ERC Report for Constitutional Reform, The Party System and the Reform of the Electoral Process, Implications of the ERC Report for Electoral Management Bodies,Gender Provisions in the ERC ReportandThe ERC Report and the Way Forward: What Needs to be done.
For: CRDM Steering Committee