It is with great pleasure that I welcome everyone to this conversation. This Roundtable is not a meeting in the strict sense of it but a conversation; an interaction between stakeholders working towards a free, fair, peaceful, and credible election with all ingredients of transparency. The participants were carefully selected to represent all critical stakeholders of the electoral value chain.
The FCT Area Council Election has been scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for Saturday, February 12, 2022. This is one of the off-season elections and the only local government election conducted by INEC. The Centre for Transparency Advocacy, an accredited Domestic Observer Group like many other stakeholders, is preparing for the election with the mandate to deploy observers, observe the election and report on the observation thereby contributing our quota towards a free, fair, peaceful, and credible Area Council election in the FCT.
This meeting is one in the series through which CTA has been engaging various stakeholders to gauge the pulse and preparations of the citizens and the Election Management Body towards the election. It is important to note that the FCT Area Council Election is no less critical to the nation as other elections in the states. This election is important because FCT is the only STATE that its citizens are “stateless”, therefore, this election should be taken seriously by all stakeholders in the process.
The agitations by the Original Inhabitants of the FCT towards being treated as people with equal stake in the National political terrain cannot be degraded hence, transparency, should be the hallmark of every group, agency, individuals, the media, security agencies, civil society and citizens that will be involved in the conduct of this election on February 12, 2022.
14 political parties are presenting candidates for the positions as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission. 55 candidates are contesting for the position of Chairman while 363 candidates are jostling to fill the position for Councilors across the 68 constituencies in the FCT. There are 1,373,492 registered voters in the FCT while the number of polling units in the FCT stands at 2,822 including the newly created 2,260. However, INEC has announced that there will be no deployment of materials and personnel to 593 out of the newly created polling units because there are no voters yet registered in those units.
It is our belief that all of us represent here today including INEC will serve the interest of the people while building on the recent successes in the last Anambra State Governorship Election. The deployment of improved technology such as the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (B-VAS) that replaced the Smart Card Reader will help to achieve transparency in the electoral process.
It is important to remind us as stakeholders that inclusion will help to ensure that all voices are heard, especially those of the vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and people with disability in the electoral process to engender better democratic practices which in turn will help the nation in achieving a sustainable, credible pathway to elections and the electoral process.
Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) will be deploying 150 observers including our expert team members to the 6 Areas Councils with at least 15 observers per Area Council. These observers will be trained on Election Observation, code of conduct of observers, adherence to INEC Election Guidelines and the Covid-19 Protocols on Thursday, February 10. CTA will also be setting up a Situation Room here in Abuja on election day to receive reports from the field observers.
In conclusion, it is our desire that we all become goodwill Ambassadors to communities where we reside in the FCT as we urge citizens to shun voting buying and selling which undermines the election; candidates should campaign based on issues and not for heating up the polity and creating fears in the heart of people who want to vote. Also, security agencies should assure the masses of adequate protection within the election periods. Having a credible, free and fair election should be the primary responsibility of all other stakeholders.
The Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) is registered as a non-profit, non-Governmental, non-partisan and non-religious organisation with a mission is to promote the benefits of transparency and accountability in public service and to cause a reawakening in the society to imbibe the tenets of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.
CTA an accredited election observer equally operates as a critical watch dog in the electoral value chain and is involved in election observation in Nigeria
CTA most sincerely appreciates the quality collaboration from the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in the FCT Alhaji Yahaya Bello, our media partners, the Board of CTA, the security agencies, traditional rulers, religious leaders, professional organizations, CSOs, and other participants who in one way or the other has added value to our work and ultimately this meeting today. Once again, I sincerely welcome everyone and wish for a fruitful conversation