.Lagos council polls

…Says aparthy may mar exercise

…As 6.5m registered voters to participate

By Olasunkanmi Akonni and Gabriel Olawale

An international election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, has stressed the need the for Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC in ensuring free, fair and transparent exercise in order to boost citizens confidence in the council election process slated for Saturday, July 24, 2021, into 20 Local Government Areas, LGAs, and 37 Local Council Development Area, LCDAs, of Lagos State.

The group also expressed fears over possible apathy that could mar the exercise in view of the low sensitization of electorate.

Meantime, a total of 6,570,291 registered voters are expected to exercise their franchise in the polls across 13,323 polling units in 20 LGAs and 37 LCDAs, even as Yiaga Africa said that they are deploying 13,323 duly-trained observers to monitor the  process.

Speaking during a pre-election press conference in Lagos, Director of Programs, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said that their roving observers are expected to visit a minimum of three polling units each and report on the conduct of the election.

Mbamalu, expressed regret that the absence of periodic, genuine and transparent elections at the local government areas in Nigeria remained a major threat to Nigerias democracy,

“Twenty-two years after democracy, local government areas in Nigeria struggle with poor governance, the absence of periodic, credible elections, and almost non-existent governance structures that promote citizen engagement and accountability.

“The worst fate of local government areas in Nigeria remains the overbearing control by state governors and a select few (power brokers) who have perfected a system that both impoverishes the people and denies the people a voice when the elections are rigged.

She explained that a recent study by Yiaga Africa on the challenges and prospects of Local Government elections in Nigeria taking Oyo and Lagos states as case studies, revealed that there are opportunities for election stakeholders to improve on the process to guarantee the sanctity of ballots and increase citizens participation in the process.

“Thus, the LGA and council elections slated for July 24, 2021 is another opportunity for election stakeholders especially the election management bodies, the security and indeed the citizens to change the negative narrative that has obscured these elections in recent times. “

Corroborating her views, Yiaga Africa Board Member, Eze Nwagwu, urged LASIEC to ensure early deployment of its personnel and materials to polling units to enable early commencement of polls.

“LASIEC election officials must ensure uniformity of consistency in the application of guidelines across all polling stations.

“They should provide explicit information on accreditation and voting procedure as well as the result collation process and announcement.

“LASIEC must be transparent and accountable to boost citizens confidence in the LGA election process. For future LGA elections, LASIEC should provide a simple and straightforward process to facilitate timely accreditation for domestic observers.

“Security personnel deployed for the election should conduct themselves with the utmost sense of responsibility, professionalism, and impartiality. They should be on the alert to forestall any attempt to circumvent the election using violence and intimidation.

He however, appealed to all contesting political parties to abide by the rules governing the conduct of the LGA elections, parties should admonish their supporters to refrain from acts that could jeopardize the process or destabilize public peace.

“Civil Society Organisations, CSOs should up their efforts in conducting last-minute Get-Out-The-Vote Campaigns in a matter that will increase participation in the election. CSOs should increase their effort in providing oversight on the LGA election while voters should adhere to COVID-19 public health protocols, including practice of physical distancing and frequent washing of hands, or use hand sanitisers,” Nwagwu stated.

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