From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
European Union (EU) has restated commitment towards engendering and strengthening democratic governance in the country.
The EU, through its Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) funded programme, promised that it would deepen its engagement with young people, women, and persons with disabilities through its cohort.
It noted that these groups of people have the number and passion to positively influence and impact the socio-political space, stressing that, while there were some positives and good achievements in the last general elections, there were also issues that needed to be addressed going forward.
A statement from EU, on Monday, indicated that the EU’s Programme Manager for Democracy and Rule of Law, Laolu Olawumi, renewed the commitment at a two-day retreat for the EU-SDGN cohort in Lagos.
Olawumi, said the retreat assessed the interventions of the cohort in the last 12 months, with a view to understand what worked and what didn’t work, identify the challenges encountered, and chart better ways to address them.
She explained that the EU-SDGN programme provided support to institutions of government and, in particular, the Nigerian electoral process, providing funding and technical support to targeted beneficiaries.
He further explained that the six EU-SDGN component areas include; support to INEC, support to the National Assembly and the Judiciary, support to political parties, support to media, support to women, youths and persons with disabilities and support to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Olawumi, while stating the importance of introspection on the just concluded elections, urged the EU-SDGN cohort not to lose sight of states like Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo that would be having elections in just over 100 days.
She said, “Over the last 12 months, we had an intense work plan where different members of the EU-SDGN cohort delivered several activities and technical support to critical stakeholders that we have jointly identified.
“The retreat, therefore, sought to see whether the interventions that we have planned for the next couple of months would help us address the challenges that we have seen in the period leading to the elections, and the immediate aftermath of the election.”
She explained that the retreat created an opportunity for all the partners to discuss their intervention areas, the precise actions they undertook during the elections and what the cohort considers the critical issues that need to be addressed moving forward.
“In terms of what we are doing around capacity building, one thing to really highlight is the fact that the EU-SDGN programme is Nigerian-led and is mainly implemented by civil society organizations. And that in itself, is our way of contributing and building the civil society space in Nigeria.
“How do we provide a platform with which civil society can better engage with the government and build capacity to ensure that they are focusing on the issues, and they are operating within an environment that helps them properly harness the voices of ordinary Nigerians, and better serve the needs and the will of Nigerian people?
“So, that in itself for me, I think is a huge positive. But in doing this, we are engaging with all identified critical stakeholders as well. And when I say this, I mean, the government, civil society, and the public.
“Within the government, we are working with the electoral management body, trying to provide technical assistance. We are also working with the judiciary through our trainings and our engagements with Judges, as well as other officers of the court.
“We are also working with the media to promote a conducive legal environment for media to operate and for the Broadcasting Commission to also efficiently promote pluralism in the media and civic space.
“Of course, I think it’s very important to stress here that we have Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo state elections in just over 100 days from now. And so, the priority is to build trust with the Nigerian public by ensuring that those elections are conducted in a way and manner that further instills confidence in the electoral process in Nigeria,” she added.
Members of the EU-SDGN cohort include: DAI Global, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Yiaga Africa, Kukah Centre, International Press Centre (IPC), Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), ElectHER, TAF Africa, National Peace Committee, SOS Children, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Justice Development and Peace Initiative, and Justice, Development and Peace Movement.