Domestication of African Charter on democracy will guarantee regular, fair elections in Nigeria — ActionAid

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Electoral commission officers count votes at Shagari Health Unit polling station in Yola, Adamawa State on February 23, 2019 after the polls were closed during the day of the General elections. - Nigeria began counting votes in presidential elections, even as many people had yet to even cast their ballot because of delays in the opening of polling units and problems with staffing and technology. Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way. The presidential contest will see incumbent Muhammadu Buhari (APC) seek to win a second four-year term against former vice president Atiku Abubakar (PDP). (Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP) (Photo credit should read CRISTINA ALDEHUELA/AFP/Getty Images)

By Angela Atabo
Abuja, Sept. 24, 2020 ActionAid Nigeria, an NGO, on Thursday said the domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) in Nigeria would guarantee free, fair and credible elections in the country.

Ms Ene Obi, Country Director, ActionAid, who was represented by Mrs Tasallah Chibok, Director of Programme, said this at the National Stakeholder’s Forum and Dissemination of Policy Documents in Abuja.

According to Obi, Nigeria signed unto the charter as part of commitments to living the tenets of democracy.

She added that the country is a signatory to a host of international instruments aimed at strengthening democratic states.

“ACDEG is a continent-wide normative framework for democratic consolidation and a response by the African Union to the aspirations for a new democratic culture and collective responsibility toward improving the democratic experience for Africans.’’

She added that the charter was explicit in its provisions toward constitutionalism as the basis of existence of African States with strong respect for and promotion of democratic principles.

She said these included: the rule of law, gender equality, transparency, accountability and participatory and responsive governance with regular credible elections conducted with strong independent democratic institutions.

“Nigeria’s showed commitment to the charter by signing it in 2007 and ratifying it in Jan. 2012.

“However, the country is yet to domesticate the charter in line with the country’s constitutional requirements.

“While the principles of the charter find expression in various laws and processes in the country including the general principle of the constitution, the electoral framework among others is yet to be fully domesticated.

“One critical issue is the country lagging in its reporting responsibilities and obligations.

“Article 49 calls for state obligations to submit every two years, a report to the commission on the legislative or other relevant measures taken with a view to giving effect to the principles and commitments of the charter .’’

Obi said that this was the basis for the ActionAid’s engagement with the ACDEG through the `Africa We Want project, a Pan-African initiative aimed at mobilising citizens’ engagement in the domestication of the charter.

She added that ActionAid was also engaging in educating and mobilising citizens’ action toward democratic processes including elections that were responsive to the ideals enshrined in the ACDEG.

Mr Jaye Gaskiya, one of the discussants, while speaking on the National Citizen’s Report, said that the quality of any democracy was measured by the level of participation of citizens,

This, he said was because democracy was supposed to be a representative form of governance.

Gaskiya said that although Nigeria operated a system without many legal constraints to citizens’ participations the country had a political practice that constrained citizens’ participation which domesticating ACDEG could address.

“The biggest challenge with the charter is that it has not been domesticated, Nigeria negotiates many conventions but the challenge is implementation.

“So we don’t have ACDEG domesticated if we had it domesticated, then it means we have admitted it into our body of law.

“But now that it is not domesticated the implication is, it makes it difficult to cite where our own legal framework is found wanting.

“If the charter was domesticated we could directly appeal to the charter in challenging some of those misdeeds in our electoral process but because of its absence, we are forced to rely only on our laws.

“Unfortunately, those laws are sometimes not adequate enough and those are the things that constrains citizens’ participation.’’

Mr Quadri Olaleye, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the dissemination of the policy document on ACDEG was apt at a time Nigeria was faced with a lot of democratic challenges.

Olaleye said that TUC would partner ActionAid to play a key role in ensuring that Nigeria had a true democracy where people would be carried along and where people would determine their leaders.

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