The West Africa Democracy Solidarity (WADEMOS) Network has commended Nigeria for the progress it has made towards the organisation of its upcoming presidential and national assembly elections scheduled for February 25, 202,3 and the gubernatorial and state assembly elections scheduled for March 11, 2023.

The WADEMOS Network is a non-partisan, independent civil society-led transnational democracy solidarity network. The Network consists of over 35 civil society organizations (CSOs) located in all 15 countries in West Africa, with the Secretariat based in Accra, Ghana, and housed at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).

In a statement issued at the end of a three-day solidarity mission which took place from January 25-27, 2023, the Network acknowledged the importance of this Nigeria elections to the political and economic prospects of the sub-region considering the strides that Nigeria, being Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy, has made in sustaining democracy over the last 24 years without any unconstitutional interruptions.

“We commend the people of Nigeria in their quest to deepen democratic elections in the sub-region as reflected in the extensive reforms including the passage and assent of the Electoral Act 2022 and the subsequent legal deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV)”, the statement noted.

“We received strong assurance from INEC on its preparedness towards the conduct of the election,” the statement, which contained the findings, concerns and recommendations of the Network, added.

While in Nigeria, the WADEMOS delegation met and interacted with the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), on the preparations for the national elections, the National Peace Committee, the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, selected CSOs and the media.

The solidarity mission was in recognition of the shared democratic values by people across the ECOWAS sub-region and in acknowledgement of the unity among civil society and other civic actors across the West African sub-region in their common desire to see democracy upheld in Nigeria.

“It formed part of WADEMOS’ interventions aimed at promoting the integrity and credibility of elections to be conducted in West Africa in 2023 beginning with the upcoming elections in Nigeria. This election is particularly important for the entire sub-region as it sets the tone for subsequent elections in Sierra Leone (June 2023) and Liberia (October 2023)”, the WADEMOS Network stressed in its statement.

Despite the positive observations made from the preparations towards the Nigerian elections, the delegation also pointed some concerns which have to be promptly addressed or sufficient safeguards instituted to ensure they do not degenerate into significant inconveniences that could mar the elections.

These concerns include; the need to put in place contingency measures against any large-scale malfunctioning of the BVAS on election day; multiple security concerns that could significantly threaten the smooth conduct of the elections; challenges with the deployment of electoral materials and logistics; lack of tolerance, cyberbullying and misinformation; concerns about constitutional interpretation of electoral laws.

To address these challenges and potential risk factors, the Network made some recommendations including the need for INEC to provide clarity on the electoral laws especially section 134 of the Nigerian constitution; the need to extend the period of PVC collection; the need for the security services to respect and protect the rights of citizens especially media, voters, election staff and observers in general before, during and after the election; the need for political parties to run issue-based campaigns and heed to the signed peace accord; and the need for the Government to resist the temptation to abuse incumbency.

The WADEMOS Network delegation was co-led by Dr. Kojo Asante Pumpuni, the head of the West Africa Election Observation Network (WAEON) at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Bernadette French, Head of the National Elections Watch (NEW) Secretariat in Sierra Leone.

The other members of the delegation included representatives from the West Africa Election Observation Network (WAEON), the Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights—RADDHO) in Senegal, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) in Liberia, AFLED in Mali, and some staff of the WADEMOS Network Secretariat in Accra, Ghana.

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