Omeiza Ajayi & Ezra Ukanwa – Abuja

Ahead of the February 12 Area Council Election in the Federal Capital Territory FCT, the Independent National Electoral Commissioner, INEC has assured of a level playing field for all candidates and voters.

INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC in the FCT, Alhaji Yahaya Bello gave the assurance on Wednesday during a town hall meeting with Women Groups and Gender Focused Civil Society Organizations in Abuja.

The town hall meeting was organized by INEC in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support, ECES.

Bello who was represented by the Administrative Secretary of INEC in the state, Mr Waziri Zannah charged women to come out and vote massively, assuring the masses of INEC’s transparency and readiness for the election to provide purposeful leadership.

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He charged women to go out to the grassroots to sensitize and mobilize other women to come out enmasse during the election, saying the future of the country would be determined by the outcome of elections.

“It is high time women came out en-mass and participate in electoral process. The commission provides a level playing ground for both women and men and eligible voters. INEC will count everyone’s vote and will also be transparent in all it does concerning the election.

On her part, Director, Gender and Inclusivity Department at INEC, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu urged women groups and CSOs to strategize and facilitate the participation of women during the Area council election.

She said, “there will be an election in FCT and women must be involved. The equal participation of women and men in all aspects of public life is a key principle of democracy and the place of gender equality in democracy cannot be overemphasized.

“Women consistute almost half of the country’s population and form a critical mass of voters. They cannot be ignored. CSOs and women leaders and all those responsible or concerned are to strategize and facilitate the process of enabling the active participation of women by ensuring identified challenges are mitigated if not completely eradicated before the election date.

“In 2019 general election in FCT, 743, 238 male and 601, 618 females registered in the FCT while out of the 601, 618 only 2,179 women voted on election day showing 36 per cent voter turn out. This figure is too poor and we hope that in the coming FCT Area Council election, more women who have collected their PVCs will come out to vote.”

The Deputy Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support, Manji Wilson, while commending INEC, PWDs and CSOs, stressed that ECES is pleased to support INEC ahead of the upcoming FCT Area Council Polls.

“It is on this note that we commend the huge efforts of representatives within women, PWDs, Civil Society Organizations and youth organizations in engaging the ongoing electoral and constitutional reform process, towards making important changes in the legal framework in a way that serves a greater participation and representation of marginalized groups.

“We, as ECES, are proud to have been partners with some of these organizations in advocating important milestones that will further promote inclusivity.

“All critical stakeholders in the society have to invest important efforts that will ensure citizens have equal access to voting rights, and help make these rights real and effective, not only because women represent more than 50% of the population, but because they are part of the society, important pillars of the nation and an important resource base for democratic development and advancement”, he stated.

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