By Ene Oshaba
The Gender and Election Watch (GEW) Room, of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), an organization founded to close the gender gaps in governance in Nigeria, has urged the electorate to vote wisely today.
Its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mufuliat Fijabi, gave the advise Friday in Abuja during a Pre-Election Press Briefing on the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, calling on those creating tension to desist from doing that, so that citizens can go out and vote without fear.
Fijabi also called on all election officials to adhere to Priority Voting as contained in the electoral act and guideline of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which stipulated that Pregnant women, nursing mothers, People with Disabilities(PWD) and the elderly be given attention immediately.
She noted that women candidates are only 7.8% of the total number of candidates for today’s election, expressing worry that since 2011 the number of women who have emerged as elected representative have been on the decline.
“So we are encouraging everyone to vote wisely and vote for people who have the agenda of inclusion in mind that will help our kind of democracy because we need a democracy that is deepened in inclusion, to ensure that we enjoy the benefits of a gender balanced governance process.
“If you look at the global average and practices we are not where we should be in terms of women in leadership and decision making positions so the number of female candidates overall in this election is 7.8% which means that they are very few and if we are not careful the percentage may still decrees,” she stated.
“Dont create tension that will make it difficult for Nigerians to perform their civic responsibility, and I strongly call on women not to not see today as public holiday but as a time to support the growth and development of their country by going to cast their ballots.
“That That in line with the Amended Electoral Act 2022, priority voting should be accorded to pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and persons with disabilities.,” she explained.
“We should all be accommodating as well because pregnant registered women with their PVC’s may be scared to go out and vote but with the priority voting adhered to, they will be accommodated and this goes for the elderly and nursing mothers,” she added.
She disclosed further that the NWTF GEW has deployed 400 accredited observers across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for 25 February 2023 and the Governorship and State Assembly elections scheduled for 11 March 2023.
The CEO called on INEC poll officials to demonstrate fairness, maintain professionalism and due process in the discharge of their duties, adding that INEC should maintain its statutory level of preparedness and ensure early opening of polls.
She also urged the security agencies to perform their duties without militarising and intimidating the voters especially women on election day.
“All critical stakeholders, especially members of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) such as Police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), other security agencies should arrest every perpetrator of electoral crimes and ensure safety of lives and property during and after the general elections.
“NWTF through its use of an electronic gender-based checklist will watch and harvest critical data on the participation of women and other vulnerable groups in this election and will carry out its analysis based on the Electoral Act (2022) as amended.
“Additionally, NWTF’s GEW Room will closely observe the election day performance of voters, candidates, and poll officials from a gender perspective. NWTF’s GEW will closely watch the efficiency and effectiveness of technology deployed for the electoral process,” she said.
“The security situation has further been compounded by the socio-economic challenge of the Naira redesign, scarcity of new bank notes, fuel shortage and their related impactsNigerans, women in particular are affected by the socio-economic crunch of the naira redesign and scarcity of new bank notes but are resilient.
“Political parties and candidates should adhere to their commitment to the Peace Accords signed by all on 29 September 2022 and 22 February 2023 for a peaceful election throughout the duration of the election and thereafter,” she urged.