The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has reiterated its demand for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate the prosecution of those who commit electoral offenses.
This call comes in response to the recent off-cycle governorship election in Bayelsa State, and FIDA believes that such a commission would serve as a deterrent to potential offenders.
Amina Agbaje, the National President of FIDA, made this call while presenting the group’s final observations on the conduct of the Bayelsa gubernatorial election. Agbaje emphasized the need for the commission to enforce the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) and hold accountable those found guilty of electoral offenses.
FIDA Nigeria also recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) engage in high-level dialogues with key stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders. The aim would be to encourage greater participation of female voters and citizens in general during future elections. The voter turnout for the Bayelsa election was below average, with only 27.55% of registered voters exercising their franchise.
FIDA expressed concern about the low participation of female voters and attributed it, in part, to threats and acts of physical violence during the pre-election period. To address this, the federation called for improved voter awareness strategies by all stakeholders to increase the voting population in subsequent elections.
While FIDA Nigeria commended the overall peaceful conduct of the election and the efforts of security agencies and INEC in providing adequate security and logistical arrangements, they did note some issues. These included the late arrival of electoral officials and materials at polling units and incidents of vote-buying in 52.9% of the polling units by leading political parties.
In summary, FIDA Nigeria emphasized the importance of establishing an Electoral Offences Commission to prosecute offenders and recommended measures to enhance women’s participation in future elections, aiming for a higher voter turnout and increased awareness among female voters.