How rising expenses impede fair polls in ECOWAS region, by Yakubu.

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How rising expenses impede fair polls in ECOWAS region, by Yakubu.

•Era of rigging over, says Buhari

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has decried the impediment rising expenditure put in the way of smooth conduct of elections in the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) sub-region.

 According to him, many member-states are unable to fund critical aspects of the electoral process as a sovereign responsibility.

  Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the validation of the study on the cost of elections in the zone as part of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions’  (ECONEC) two-year work plan covering 2016 to 2018, Yakubu regretted that the cost of elections has kept rising.

  The INEC chair, who is also ECONEC president, noted that voter registration, compilation of credible voters’ registers, recruitment and training of electoral officials, provision of electoral logistics, security, civic education, procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, deployment of electoral technology, engagement with stakeholders and handling of pre and post-election litigations had been on the rise and were posing huge financial burden to electoral bodies in West Africa.

  The task of meeting such expensive expenditure, according to Yakubu, has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in the region.

  He added that it was against this background that ECONEC’s governing board inaugurated the study to explore what “we can do as election managers, working together with national stakeholders and development partners, to find ways to reduce the cost of elections without jettisoning innovations or compromising the quality, transparency and credibility of elections.”

  Yakubu said ECONEC had undertaken assessment and mid-term review tours of several member-states to enable election management bodies (EMBs) share experience, expertise and even pool resources not only with a view to ensuring best practices through peer review but also to reduce the cost of conducting elections in the affected nations.

  “I am glad to report that it is in this spirit of cooperation that Burkina Faso assisted neighbouring Niger Republic with ballot boxes and printing of voters’ register for the February 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Similarly, Ghana provided support to the Republic of Liberia with the printing of the voters’ register for the October 2017 presidential and parliamentary polls,” the INEC chief stated.

   He added: “Indeed, INEC Nigeria assisted the Republic of Liberia with the deployment of ICT experts to clean up the disputed voters’ register in order to break the logjam to the conduct of the December 2017 presidential run-off.”

  In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the “era of lack of transparency and accountability in the electoral process is over.”

  He therefore charged electoral officials to discharge their responsibilities with the fear of God.

   Buhari, who spoke while declaring close a two-day conference of the Interfaith Initiative for Peace (IIP) in Abuja, urged religious and traditional rulers to enlighten their subjects on their civic duty of coming out to vote in the forthcoming polls.

   The guest and Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby, harped on peace and reconciliation.

   The conveners, Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Saad III, and Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, enjoined Nigerians to eschew bitterness.

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