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14 May
0

Democracy E-Talks Series : Conversation on Future of Democracy in Nigeria

The rising threats to democracy across the world have left most democratic nations struggling to preserve and sustain the promise of democracy.  Over the last two decades, African countries have experienced democratic transitions with the conduct of regular elections. However, this has not translated to sustainable development, democratic leadership and strong institutions. More worrisome is the rise of polarization and populism during elections. For both new and older democracies, the challenge of preserving the fabrics of democracies are apparent and the opportunities for revival will be dependent on the ability to influence the level of citizens satisfaction with democracy.

Notably, the world’s most populous and developing democracies, like the United States, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico have made significant contributions to the rollback of democracy across the world. According to the Global Satisfaction with Democracy 2020 Report, in the United States for instance, levels of dissatisfaction with democracy have risen by over a third of the population in one generation. While in Nigeria, 20 years of democracy has regrettably proven to produce more attempts to limit the voice of the people, abuse of democratic principles, human rights and liberties. As noted in the CIVICUS Report on ‘People, Power under Attack’ 2019, Nigeria experienced a decline from having an obstructed civic space to a repressed civic space. This is a country rated by the ‘Democracy Index 2019’, released by The Economist Intelligence Unit as having, “a rapidly growing population of over 200 million, [not only is Nigeria] the world’s fifth-largest democracy, but will potentially be the second -or third- largest within the next generation. Its future represents not only the future of Africa – but that of the world as a whole.” Accordingly, the more democratic dissatisfaction and decline in democratic values experienced in large democracies, the greater the threat to the future and viability of democracies.

At its most basic level, there are certain attributes of a democracy which include but are not limited to; periodic, fair and free elections, universal adult suffrage, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association, inclusiveness and participation that inspires confidence in the viability of democracy. Therefore, as democracy spreads around the world, the focus must be in investing in democratic attitudes and ensuring citizens’ satisfaction with the outcome of the practice of democracy. Such outcomes must be visible and reflected in the level of equality and justice in the society, existence of transparent and accountable leadership, independent and responsive institutions as well as guaranteed rights, freedoms and credible elections.

In view of the critical role Nigeria plays in Africa and its leadership influence in determining the future of democracy in Africa, Yiaga Africa is hosting a series of Democracy talks in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden to provide a platform for dialogue on the future of democracy in Nigeria. The Democracy Talks Series is part of Sweden’s Drive for Democracy initiative proposed to be implemented locally in 2020 towards the ‘Stockholm Democracy Talks’ in 2021.

The purpose of the Democracy Talks is to use Sweden’s strong voice and agency in democracy issues to highlight the condition of democracy globally and locally – in Nigeria. The Talks is expected to create engagement and strengthen the positive narrative of democracy.

Register to join here bit.ly/DemocracyE-Tal

#DriveForDemocracy #DemocracyTalksNG

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14 May
0

Webinar : COVID-19 and Impact on Upcoming Edo, Ondo Governorship Elections

Yiaga Africa organized a webinar on April 7 2020 to explore how best Nigeria could respond to the COVID-19 pandemic vis-à-vis conduct of elections. The webinar attracted participants from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), academia, development partners and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). It provided an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on elections timetable and election management and avert constitutional crisis that may arise as a result of the limitations imposed by the spread of the pandemic. In the course of the deliberations, participants identified a wide range of issues for consideration that can help in deciding whether to postpone elections or not.

At the end of the webinar, participants mandated YIAGA Africa to constitute two major working groups to undertake critical analyses of the impacts of COVID-19 on elections, and another to provide recommendations for short and long terms actions to mitigate potential constitutional crises prompted by the continuation of pandemic.

With the recent announcement by INEC that it has no plan of postponing the upcoming off-circle elections in Edo and Ondo state to avert any constitutional crisis, it became pertinent to host a follow-up webinar on how the pandemic could impact on the elections. The webinar is also aimed to follow up with the resolutions from the Webinar held on April 7th where two working groups were constituted to undertake critical analysis of COVID-19 and its implications on elections.

One group was to examine the constitutional provisions for national emergencies and highlight the legal implication of the COVID-19 regulations on the constitutional timeline for the conduct of elections while the second working group was to review the timeline for the conduct of Edo and Ondo elections and provide technical advice to INEC. Both groups will provide feedback on their findings and share proposed recommendations during the virtual meeting. The meeting will also review recent events in the polity especially the gradual easing of the lockdown coupled with the possibility of conducting off-cycle elections later this year.

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04 May
0

CSO Statement on Control of Infectious Diseases bill

STATEMENT BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS ON THE PROPOSED CONTROL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES BILL BEFORE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, the National Assembly resumed legislative activities after one month of recess, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon resumption, the House of Representatives considered a Bill titled ‘Control of Infectious Diseases Bill’ co-sponsored by Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Reps; Rep. Pascal Obi; and Rep. Tanko Sununu. The Bill, which seeks to repeal the obsolete Quarantine Act of 1929 and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread of dangerous infectious diseases in Nigeria, and for other related matters. The Bill has passed first and second reading at plenary under controversial circumstances. We also learnt that the bill was slated for a record third reading that same day, before it was resisted by some vigilant members.

The civil society community opines

we are alarmed by the House of Representatives’ attempt to give accelerated passage to such a critical legislation like the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill without consultation and inputs from relevant stakeholders and the public. We understand that the House is resolute to pass the bill and it has fixed Tuesday, May 5, 2020 for presentation of the report of the Committee of the Whole and clause by clause voting on the bill without public hearing or consultation with relevant stakeholders. This runs contrary to the principles of public health response and preparedness; involvement of all tiers of government; and transparency in the management of infectious Diseases would be a positive development. However, we are alarmed by the House of Representatives’ attempt to give accelerated passage to such a critical legislation like the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill without consultation and inputs from relevant stakeholders and the public. We understand that the House is resolute to pass the bill and it has fixed Tuesday, May 5, 2020 for presentation of the report of the Committee of the Whole and clause by clause voting on the bill without public hearing or consultation with relevant stakeholders. This runs contrary to the principles of

effective and inclusive lawmaking.

Download Full Statement

CSO Statement on Control of Infectious Diseases bill (Updated)

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30 Apr
0

Africa’s Youth and COVID-19: Democratic and Development Dimensions

 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new world reality redefining the whole concept of human and social interaction with physical distancing identified as one of the major preventive measures. The pandemic continues to ravage the world with more countries in Africa reporting confirmed cases rising to about 27, 385 with 1,297 deaths recorded as at April 24, 2020. COVID-19 has become the game-changer in 2020 and has created a new world culture demanding the re-engineering of the society and forcing the human race to adopt and leverage on new forms of social engagement and interaction. In addition, it has amongst other things revealed the fragility of our economy, healthcare system and the almost absent social security system in countries in Africa. As projected by the Africa Union, about 20million jobs are threatened as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic with a projected shrink in the GDP in Africa. This is a reality in a continent already struggling with high youth unemployment and restiveness and high rate of poverty. 

Young people who constitute over 60% of the population in Africa remain vulnerable as the most hit by the impacts of the pandemic, with the number of jobs lost and the crippling of activities in the informal sector. On another end of the spectrum, young Africans will be largely saddled with the responsibility of building the new world order post-COVID-19 as they are the front liners of technology and new media, both of which are critical for the survival and sustenance in the post-pandemic world.

Yiaga Africa and CFA specially invites you to attend a Webinar on ‘Africa’s Youth and COVID-19: Democratic and Development Dimensions’ scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, 2020, by 11 am- 1 pm WAT. The Webinar which is part of our civic leadership series aimed at promoting strategic thinking, especially for African youth, will feature conversations around; Imaginative Governance for Africa’s Transformation; Post COVID Realities for Africa’s Youth, ‘Unemployment, Welfare System and Informal Economy’, ‘Reimagining Africa’s Health systems’ and ‘Technology, Innovation and Post COVID-19 world’.

The webinar will be interactive with four panellists speaking on specific issues moderated by a moderator with an opportunity for participants to ask questions.

Click here to Register

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29 Apr
0

REPORT: Assessing Legislative Response to COVID-19 in Nigeria

The world is experiencing one of the worst pandemics in human history. The novel Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on all facets of human existence, and nation-states are mobilizing diverse resources to provide medical, political, economic, and legal solutions. In Nigeria, the government’s response thus far has focused on containing the health crisis through the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), testing, and treatment. The government has also sought to mitigate the harsh economic and social consequences through the provision of economic stimulus and palliatives, as well as strategizing for accelerated economic recovery.

Over 1000 cases and 40 fatalities have been recorded across 32 states in Nigeria thus far. This presents a gloomy outlook for governance and development. Economic hardship represents a significant concern, as the country grapples with the effects of the pandemic with an economy that was very weak and vulnerable before the crisis. Prior to the detection of the index case, Nigeria’s economy was heading into a recession triggered by the falling prices of crude oil in the global market. In March, oil prices plummeted to $25 per barrel due to a decline in global oil consumption caused by travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed by various governments as measures to contain the transmission of COVID-19. With this significant impact on the nation’s revenue, the government is compelled to review the 2020 Appropriation, as the current crude prices are below the estimated benchmark of $57 per barrel at the time of the bill passage.

At the epicentre of this crisis are leadership and governance. Public leadership is required in times of crisis like the one imposed by the novel coronavirus; therefore, the government must be proactive in responding to the crisis else the consequences will assume magnitudes that cannot be managed. In other words, the lifeline of this crisis will be determined by the responsiveness, accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of the government’s response. This is the moment for democratic institutions to demonstrate that they exist for the collective interest of the people.

Whilst the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak is led by the federal government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF), the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to provide a legislative response to tackle the pandemic through the development and passage of legislation to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on citizens and the economy; perform oversight of the executive response to the pandemic, and provide support to constituents to be responsive to their needs during this unprecedented time.

This report by the Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement (Yiaga Africa CLE) is a product of monitoring and in-depth analysis of the National Assembly’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since the index case. The analysis is benchmarked by four core principles; Responsiveness, Accountability, Transparency, and Inclusiveness. The assessment relied on primary and secondary data sourced from interviews with legislators, legislative aides, and constituents; press statements from the National Assembly and media reports.

This report covers the period of January 30, 2020, to April 15, 2020, and provides recommendations for an improved legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

 

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28 Apr
0

Press Statement: Citizens’ Agenda on Improved Legislative Response to COVID-19

Yiaga Africa Press Statement on the Resumption of National Assembly Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Citizen’s Agenda for Improved legislative response to COVID-19

The Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement welcomes the decision of the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, to resume plenary after a one-month recess following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. The resumption of legislative work will no doubt strengthen Nigeria’s response to the pandemic, deepen accountability and transparency and protect citizens’ socio-economic and political rights.

This resumption is coming against the background of increased cases of Coronavirus and its determination to wreak havoc on the nation’s economy and annihilate our population. As of March 24, 2020, when the National Assembly proceeded on recess, Nigeria had 44 cases and one death. Within the one-month break, the case profile has risen to 1,273, with 40 deaths spread across 32 states based on data released by the NCDC on April 26, 2020. Ths case progression calls for urgent action by all arms of government to prevent further transmission of the virus and mitigate its harsh effects on livelihoods.

As the National Assembly resumes legislative activities, the Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement (CLE) recommends the following pathways for an improved legislative response to COVID-19. These pathways require administrative decisions and legislative actions;

1. Adopt e-parliament in legislative work: Given the shutdown of the National Assembly to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, it has become imperative for the NASS to integrate e-parliament into legislative action fully. Yiaga Africa calls on the NASS to amend its rules to incorporate videoconferencing and teleconferencing to facilitate remote legislative work like committee meetings, public hearings, public petitions etc. to ensure legislative work is not stalled due to social distancing or lockdowns as a result of the pandemic. Legislators and staff of the NASS should be trained on the use of technology in the conduct of legislative business to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

2. Subject executive actions on COVID-19 to legislative scrutiny: Yiaga Africa calls on the National Assembly to mandate its committees to subject all executive actions taken during the recess to legislative review especially enforcement of the COVID-19 regulations, distribution of palliatives to indigent Nigerians, management of COVID-19 funding and coordination and containment of the health crisis. The NASS should, in the spirit of transparency, engage with critical stakeholders, especially citizens, civil society, media, faith-based organizations, etc. in holding the executive to account for its actions. Publishing a report of the findings of this exercise will enhance citizens’ trust in the legislature and faith in the overall government response to the pandemic

3. Accelerate the amendment of the 2020 Appropriation Act and passage of an emergency economic stimulus package: The Senate should expeditiously consider the Emergency Economic Stimulus bill as passed by the House and transmit to the President for assent. The NASS should harmonize the bill with the proposed N500 billion fiscal Stimulus package of the executive, as both proposals seek to provide the required resources to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the economy and citizens. As noted above, the current 2020 budget seems be rendered unrealistic due to severe decline in the budget benchmark; therefore, the NASS should, without further delay, review and amend the budget in line with current economic realities. The NASS should critically examine all emergency COVID-19 proposals in line with the principles of transparency, accountability, equity, inclusion, and value for money. The NASS should also ensure that proposals are responsive to the needs of all citizens, particularly marginalized groups who are most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.

4. Increased Appropriation for Health: The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the fragility of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure and facilities. The National Assembly should use its power of appropriation to increase budgetary allocation to the health sector and deploy necessary legislative oversight to ensure that the country’s health infrastructure is prepared to manage health crises like the one posed by COVID-19.

5. Legislative framework for pandemic management in Nigeria: Considering the limitations and anachronistic nature of the Quarantine Act of 2004, the NASS, through legislation, should provide a framework for managing public health crises in Nigeria. Such legislation should also address the legal implications of the force majeure on the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

6. Investigate and respond to reports of human rights violations and gender-based violence: Nigeria has witnessed an increase in the abuse of citizens’ rights by security personnel deployed to enforce lockdown measures across the country. This resulted in killings of innocent citizens. The Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, and the Ebonyi State Task Force on COVID-19 were jointly responsible for the death of 18 citizens. The country has also witnessed a significant rise in sexual and gender-based violence during this time. The NASS should investigate these abuses and ensure accountability through its relevant committees. The NASS should call on the Executive to introduce special measures during this period to guarantee protection and real-time response to survivors of violence and human rights violations, especially for women and girls.

7. Improve citizens’ engagement and communication: The National Assembly continues to be negatively perceived by Nigerians ostensibly due to poor communication and image perception management. The negative perception arises from the opaque nature in which activities and information relating to the parliament are handled. The negative perception often gives credence to misinformation. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the NASS should to improve its communication and engagement with citizens to build trust and mobilize the necessary support to win the battle against COVID-19

8. Prioritize the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB): The PIGB is one of four parts of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which seeks to update and replace the outdated Nigerian Petroleum industry governance structure with a more comprehensive and current petroleum industry law that aligns with global standards. This bill seeks to provide for the governance and institutional framework for the petroleum industry and other related matters. The bill is considered critical to the reforms of the petroleum industry in Nigeria and, indeed, the stability of the Nigerian economy, given that the oil represents the largest source of revenue for the country. Though the current 9th Assembly had slated it as priority legislation to be passed in June 2020, the suspension of plenary owing to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this timeline. The National Assembly should consider its passage as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic given the massive impact of the pandemic on the international energy market.

The lifeline of the COVID-19 will be determined principally by the responsiveness, accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness of the government’s response. This is the moment for democratic institutions like the National Assembly to demonstrate they exist for the collective interest of the people. Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement restates its commitment to supporting the legislature as it gears up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through legislative action.

Signed.

Samson Itodo
Executive Director

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26 Apr
0

Citizens Feedback on Government Response to COVID-19

Summary of Findings

Based on reports from 600 LGAs, there is a minimal distribution of relief materials to citizens in the majority of states with either partial or full lock-down.

1. Economic Hardship: Citizens complained that the lockdown brought untold economic hardship. Most workers whose subsistence
is dependent on daily wages were grossly affected as their lifeline was cut short by the lockdown. This was worsened by the sudden hike in food prices In places where relief materials were distributed, they were either inadequate to cater to the target beneficiaries.

2. Discrimination in Distribution and Diversion of Palliatives: In some locations citizens monitors reported that relief materials were diverted by politicians or distributed to party members and supporters as opposed to poor and vulnerable in the society. None of our observers in the 600 LGA’s either received or heard of cash transfers to anyone in their community, ward, or local government area.

3. Possible Exclusion of Women: In locations where the distribution of relief material was conducted, women were excluded. The distributing teams failed to use an inclusive template to ensure women have equal access to the palliatives. In most cases, the distribution of palliatives is done according to households and given to the head of the household which in most cases are men.

4. Violation of Physical Distancing: Across all LGAs monitored, Yiaga Africa monitors, reported disregard for social or physical distancing guidelines. Most people are concerned about eking a living than observing physical distancing guidelines.

5. Public outreach on preventive measures: State-based organizations, community associations, and religious bodies are taking notable steps in sensitizing citizens and distributing protective materials like sanitizers, facemasks, and soap. The multi-stakeholder approach adopted for public sensitization is highly commendable.

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26 Apr
0

780 Executive Directors, Team Leaders Exposed to Civic Leadership in Post-Pandemic Era

At least, 780 Chief Executive Officers,  Executive Directors, team leaders of youth Civil Society Organisations, social enterprises and community-based organizations have been exposed to strategic thinking, organizational management, and program development in a post-pandemic era during a webinar hosted by Yiaga Africa and United States Embassy. 

The webinar facilitated by Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo had young and old leaders interact with experts on how to respond to a pandemic like COVID-19 by building solidarity with their communities and planning effectively for the post-pandemic era. 

According to Itodo, the webinar hosted with the support of the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy, was aimed at promoting strategic planning on organizational management and program development with Executive Directors, Team leaders of youth civic organizations, social enterprises, and community-based organizations.  The goal according to him was to get the leaders to think of how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their work and how to mitigate the harsh impact of the pandemic on CSO groups. 

The discussion was led by Prof. William A. Brown is a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and Dr. Amina Salihu who is Senior Program Officer with the MacArthur Foundation Africa Office. 

During the presentation by Prof. William A. Brown, urged these leaders to evaluate their financial situation and organizational risks while evaluating demand for their services in the short and long term. Similarly, he encouraged organisations to reach out to their constituents saying “inform your constituents about how your organization is doing and how you are adjusting to serve them. Assure them your organization is assessing and adapting to the situation”. 

According to him, “if your mission had purpose before COVID 19, it will still have today” thus it is necessary to consider funding that will meet the needs of your community during this crucial period. He encouraged community engagement, creation of awareness, and showing commitment and support during this period.

In relation to organizational sustainability, Professor Brown who serves as the Director of the Center for Nonprofits & Philanthropy, tasked organisations to consistently reach out to donors with valuable proposals during this challenging time. “Over communicate with your donors. Pick up the phone and call to check on them. Ask if you can help serve them. Thank them for their support”, he said. 

Also, Dr. Amina Salihu, a Senior Program Officer with the MacArthur Foundation Africa Office during her own presentation called on young Chief Executive Officers to wear their strategic thinking caps and come up with transformative agenda this period.  According to Dr. Salihu, strategic thinking is a process that defines the way people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others. This process must bring forth solutions rather than just proposals as money always follows good ideas.

She stressed the importance of developing crises management tools while also encouraging the use of technology to connect and educate the community. She also highlighted the importance of holding the government to account during this period and countering fake news and disinformation. 

Dr Amina who was a gender technical team member, for the Nigerian government Vision 20 2020 process, and for the review of the National Gender Policy for Nigeria, 2006 and a gender strategy for Nigeria’s National Assembly said, there is also need to pay attention to gender based violence referring to the United Nations #Heforsheathome campaign. “Radio stations are offering psychosocial support to women who are locked in with abusers”, she said.  

The webinar is available to be watched here:

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26 Apr
0

How Female Lawmakers are Taking Legislative Actions Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

As the world battle the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, women and children remain vulnerable to effects of the virus especially the economic hardship that comes with lock-down in most part of Nigeria. In this vein, it becomes imperative to advocate for Legislative Action on COVID-19 from an inclusive women perspective.

This informed the webinar hosted by Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement with 6 female legislators from state houses of assemblies to discuss taking legislative action on COVID-19. The meeting provided an opportunity to get insight into the actions taken by female legislators and the importance of a balanced gender perspective amid the crisis.

Female lawmakers at their respective assemblies supported passage of legislations to protect its citizens and state from the spread of COVID-19. One of such decisions is the closure of borders to prevent entry into or exit out of the state. They also embarked on massive sensitization of their constituents and distribution of hand sanitizers, washing buckets and detergents while some lawmakers took step further by reaching out to elderly and vulnerable with food and monetary palliatives.

Speaking during the meeting hosted on zoom, Hon. Binta Mamman from Niger state made a clarion call saying, “we are representative of the people; they came out to vote for us. This is the time we need to show our constituents that we care about them.” Lawmakers need to provide relief materials for constituents before even commencing sensitization because citizens have been violating the social distance regulation due to need to make ends meet.  She called for collective effort between both legislative and executive arm of government to provide support for citizens while also calling for legislations that will improve lives of citizens.

Hon. Nwachukwu Chinwe Lillian also shared the effort made by the legislative arm of government in Ebonyi state saying legislators have passed a law to backing all the COVID-19 precautionary measures and regulations to combat the pandemic. The law also criminalizes artificial hike and hoarding of essential food and services to stem the economic effect of the pandemic. “This is in addition to submitting our April salaries to the fight against the pandemic”, she enthused

Similarly, Hon. Regina Anyogo revealed that the Cross-River state house of assembly had also passed similar legislation to provide legal backing to regulations by National Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organisation. This is amongst other efforts to reach out to constituents with relief materials and sensitization activities.

For instance, Hon. Atinuke Christianah Bello, Chief whip of Ogun state house of assembly went back to her community to sensitize them on precautionary measures and distributed T-shirt with education messages inscribed to create awareness. During the meeting with Yiaga Africa, she said “I raised a billboard in my constituency with information that covid-19 is real, showing symptoms, precautionary measures and numbers to call for information. I also distributed a total of 4,000 pieces of sanitizers to market, churches, mosques and individuals.” “I have identified elderly vulnerable people and gave them at least 10,000 to stem the effect of economic hardship”, she said.

Some of the female lawmakers with support from the executive were able to provide food stuffs like Rice, beans, yam, noodles among others to as many as 500,000 households as revealed by Honorable Atinuke Bello of Ogun state.

The tale is similar with the only female lawmaker in Ondo state house of assembly Hon. Tomomewo Favour Semiloore who revealed that all members of the state assemblies returned to their constituency to sensitize them on the dangers of the pandemic. According to her, state lawmakers distributed face masks and hand sanitizers to communities within their constituents.

Not too Young To Run strategy team members led by Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs, Cynthia Mbamalu, Chioma Agwuebo, Nana Nwachukwu,Bella, Yetunde Bakare, Anne Ndubuisi Ibrahim Faruk urged the lawmakers to document and amplify the impact they have made in this period. The female lawmakers were also urged to distinguish themselves by being intentional in their interventions especially targeted at women as women remain more victims of the pandemic.

They reiterated that, providing educational content to students via TV and radio should be done across all states to continue the disruption in the educational sector. According to Anne Ndubuisi, leaders must reinstate the confidence of their people by constantly communicating and remaining connected with the people. The female lawmakers were further urged to reach the communities that are often ignored so that people will feel part and parcel of this process.

Cynthia also urged female lawmakers to take a step further to fight against gender-based violence in this era where women are confined with their potential abusers. She advised that hotlines where citizens can reach out to in case of any form of human rights violation of violence, should be made available.

Another participant at the webinar, Dr Ernest Ereke, Program Manager, of Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement urged lawmakers to continue their oversight functions on the executive to ensure accountability and transparency in all expenses related to COVID-19. He said, lawmakers must begin to engage the executive by asking for documentations on funds allocated and the various measures taken to fight the pandemic.

Senior Program Officer, Yetunde Bakare further shared important guidelines on taking legislative action on COVID-19, urging lawmakers to educate their constituents on the symptoms of the pandemic and preventive measures to reduce the risk of getting infected. According to Mrs Bakare, it is important to regularly check on the health and wellbeing of constituents during this difficult time. The guidelines also include the procurement and distribution of protective equipment and basic relief materials to alleviate economic hardship as constituents remain lock-down.

She advised legislators to reach out to their constituents via sensitization messages using various platforms like Television, Radio and social media platforms. Lawmakers were also urged to leverage on technology to share short videos to inspire hope and encourage constituents to follow preventive measures.

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25 Apr
0

COVID-19 Pandemic: Stakeholders Chart Pathways to Credible Elections

Election Stakeholders have expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on upcoming elections and the extent to which decisions to hold or postpone elections are in tandem with legal frameworks on electoral governance. This is crucial because such decisions can strengthen or undermine the sustainable management of COVID-19 and its attendant contradictions. Governance of the pandemic must not in any way endanger constitutionalism, rule of law, and overall wellbeing of citizens.

 It is against this background that Yiaga Africa organized a webinar on 6 April 2020 to explore how best the country could respond to the COVID-19 pandemic vis-à-vis Nigerian elections. The webinar drew participants from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), academia, development partners, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The webinar provided an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on elections and devise mechanisms for averting any constitutional crisis that  could impact on the conduct of the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections in the months of September and October 2020, and that may be prompted by the pandemic and government’s response.

Specifically, participants identified a lot of issues for consideration that can help in deciding whether to postpone the coming elections or not. In his opening remark, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, Yiaga Africa’s Board Chair said, it was important for Yiaga Africa and election stakeholders to see the nexus between COVID-19 and elections, and to reflect on how it will impact on electoral activities going forward.

According to Dr. Abdu, the world needs to start planning for post-pandemic just as it planned for post-second world war by designing economic recovery frameworks and systems that can lead to a quicker recovery from this pandemic. He said financing elections will become a huge challenge. “Nigerians are already asking questions on how much is being spent on elections and the next couple of elections in the country will be affected terribly”, he said.

He further warned that the economic implication of the COVID-19 pandemic will see pockets of conflicts which can also impact on elections as the current lockdown is not allowing some of the stakeholders that are involved in response service to act while the government is not doing much to deal with these issues. “What happens post-pandemic should occupy minds, elections will play a very important role because people are questioning the economic framework that has governed the world in the last 40 years, people are calling for radical reforms”.

Another key speaker at the webinar, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, also shared his thoughts on how Covid-19 impacts the Elections and the role of stakeholders moving forward. Prof Ibeano cautioned that it will be a huge mistake to focus on the impact of COVID19 on the election without considering its impact on the democratic process generally. He said it is becoming apparent that unconstitutional powers are being assumed by government executives and administration in the name of fighting the pandemic leading to the increase in human rights abuses across the board which impacts democracy.

On how the pandemic has impacted elections, he said across Africa, several elections that have been postponed due to the pandemic. “In Nigeria, 4 senatorial elections have been postponed in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau States as well as all local council elections across the country”, he said. According to him, it is not just about the longer-term impact but the likelihood of more postponement of elections in the future either because of the logistical issues arising from the aftermath of the crisis or just because governments do not want to hold elections.

“The cost of postponed elections and other elections for that matter; in the aftermath of this especially if countries like Nigeria takes a major economic hit from this, the cost of money will rise, the dollar will rise, the cost of imports will become very high and the initial projections that the Nigeria 2023 general elections will be a 250,000 billion naira election will fail if the country take a major hit from the pandemic”, he further warned.

Speaking from a legal perspective, Dr. Sam Amadi decried that the legal management of the crisis has been poor in terms of a clear legal framework. He warned that cynical leaders could destroy elections in the guise of dealing with the pandemic and more to this is the creeping authoritarianism which is almost intertwined with the management of pandemic.

“Nigerians are complaining about the illegality of some of the policies or interventions such as constraining movements and shutting down activities around the issues of democracy. We are going to see increasing crippling authoritarianism in which leaders will be compelled to govern without recourse to the law which will further erode democratic qualities of governance”, he said.

Director of Programs Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu called on the electoral commission to review its guidelines for the conduct of elections, leveraging on technology and taking the pandemic into cognizance. She said INEC must redesign its activities in collaboration with health sector experts.

Also speaking at  the event, Democracy and Accountability Coordinator of  the Nigerian office for Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), Catherine Angai said the conversation is critical, timely, and important as it will feed into what OSIWA will discuss with the heads of the West Africa electoral commissions. She said stakeholders must be practical and pragmatic within the given context, looking at what has happened in other places and taking into consideration some of the health requirements to hold elections within this circumstance.

Funke Baruwa, a good governance advocate, urged INEC to develop a strategy for engaging the elections, saying the commission must have an interim plan for upcoming elections during this pandemic. According to her, there is already the negative narrative that the government is using the pandemic to delay the democratic process and the commission needs to change the narrative.

Other contributors to the webinar include Journalist, Seun Okinbaloye who said, ahead of the Edo and Ondo Elections, Nigeria needs to start thinking about digitizing elections and using technology as a lot will no longer be the same after the pandemic.

COVID-19 offers opportunities for redressing noticeable contradictions in Nigeria’s governance architecture generally and the electoral processes. The Webinar on COVID – 19 and  the future of Nigerian Elections has established solid foundations for the provision of social services, which includes revamping grassroots governance, improving trust/confidence in the electoral processes and outcomes, addressing the usually high costs of elections, promoting sustainable electoral reform to consolidate democracy.

This requires adapting lessons from comparative international experiences, sustainable electoral reform in key areas such as the adoption of e-registration and e-voting, deeper collaboration between INEC, CSOs and other stakeholders, improve the quality of voter education, rethink federal-state relations with greater emphasis on consultation, cooperation, and collaboration, etc. All these must be done within a human rights perspective to governance and development.

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