President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said Nigeria has provided support to some West African countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau to conduct elections.
According to Buhari, Nigeria provided logistics support to Sierra Leone where Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff helped in cleaning their voter register ahead of the presidential run-off election in 2017.
He said Nigeria also provided voter registration equipment to Guinea Bissau, which facilitated the conduct of parliamentary election in March this year.
Buhari stated this while declaring open the 6th Biennial General Assembly of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) and International Symposium on the Promotion of Inclusivity in the Electoral Process in Abuja.
Buhari who pledged the continuous support of Nigeria to the realisation of credible election in the sub-region, charged the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC to ensure the consolidation of democracy in the West African sub-region through peer support by Electoral Management Bodies and EMBs.
He said it was in view of this that, within the limits of available resources, Nigeria has responded by providing material and technical support to ECONEC such as the recent logistics support to Sierra Leone, deployment of experts from INEC to assist in cleaning up the voters' register in Liberia ahead of the Presidential run-off election in 2017 and the provision of voter registration equipment to Guinea Bissau which facilitated the conduct of parliamentary election in March this year.
The President who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, assured of Nigeria's continued assistance saying that credible election in the sub-region is not only good for democracy and periodic elections but it is also good for overall sub-regional stability.
He said it was significant that the 6th Biennial General Assembly of ECONEC opened with a symposium on inclusivity with young people, women, persons with disabilities actively participating as speakers, adding that, it is a sign of the steady progress in ensuring that all segments of the society have a voice in the management of public affairs through the democratic process.
"It is also an indication that in spite of the progress achieved so far, more needs to be done by governments through legislation, by political parties through affirmative action in the nomination of candidates for election and by all stakeholders through unrelenting advocacy for greater inclusion of all segments of society in the democratic and electoral processes.
"It is for this reason that before the last general election in Nigeria, I assented to a constitutional amendment bill that reduced the age required of a candidate to contest for some elective offices. This followed the strong but peaceful advocacy by young men and women around the slogan of 'Not-too-young-to-run' as the bill passed by the National Assembly was popularly called", the President stated.
President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, in his remarks said the 9th National Assembly, particularly the Senate will work with all stakeholders to promote efforts at providing women, youth, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups with full, equal and effective participation at all levels of decision making in public life.
Lawan represented by the chairman Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Kabiru Gaya, expressed hope that the symposium will come up with policies and strategies to close the existing gaps and open up new vistas in promoting the full, equal and active participation of all in the electoral process.
Similarly, the deputy speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, reiterated the commitment of the parliament to make progressive legislations that will promote inclusivity of all stakeholders within the democratic community especially, women, young persons and the physically challenged.
INEC and ECONEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in his opening remarks, expressed the Network's gratitude to the bilateral assistance in terms of electoral logistics consistently extended by the successive Nigerian governments to countries across the sub-region, including vehicles, motorcycles, boats, voter registration machines and professional expertise.
Yakubu also appealed to ECOWAS to continue to strive to actualise the vision of establishing the electoral logistics depot at Lungi in Sierra Leone from which countries in need can draw such facilities as ballot boxes and trucks for movement of election materials without each country having to procure its own materials with every election.