By Rita Esegine
Thousands of youth in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, have continued to respond to the European Union and Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) sensitization and campaign for voter registration and participation in electioneering processes, especially in the 2023 general elections.
Although many have opined that INEC must increase the number of registration centres and provide adequate number of machines and manpower to enable the mammoth crowd of youths and many other residents of Abuja who are already finding it difficult due to limited number staff and machines, do their registration easily.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday 21 June, 2022, in Abuja, the European Union further reiterate its partnership with the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and resolve to further sensitize and attract Nigerian youth to register to get their voter card and as well fully participate in the electioneering process in the 2023 general elections.
EU said that its interest towards ensuring that all eligible voters in Nigeria get their permanent voter card and especially the youths, is part of its democratic governance support to Nigeria.
According to its Programme Manger, Democracy and Rule of Law, who is also its Delegation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS, Laolu Olawumi, the EU said; “We were in Lagos two weeks ago with the same message and now here we are in Abuja. The message is; We would like people to get their PVCs and would like them even more importantly, to vote in 2023.
“The European Union has been a strong, major partner of the Nigerian government, particularly since the return to democracy in 1999. And we have quite an array of programmes in our development cooperation portfolio. One of our flagship programmes: the European Union support to democratic governance in Nigeria programme; is the vehicle with which we deliver our support in the area of democratic governance.
One of the things that I would like to highlight about that programme is that it is very, very locally led, it is Nigerian driven, and it is unique in that sense. And I just would like to underscore that we are working with fantastic organisations helping us to deliver on a common objective, standing with the Government of Nigeria to realise that. We are working very, very strongly with INEC in that regard. And that’s why we are gathered here today.
Over the last couple of years. We have tried to answer a very, very important question. And that question is; how do we get young people to be more involved in the political process? How do we get them to be engaged, not just by giving their voters card but to be to have a sustained engagement? If you look at the data from INEC, you see that we have high levels of young people in terms of our population, but that does not necessarily translate to the engagement in the political process. And we have said, how do we address this very huge challenge. That was why we came up with the Youth Vote Count campaign.
This is nonpartisan. We are not affiliated with any political party. Neither do we support any candidate. The entire objective or the objective of the campaign is just to connect young people with centres of power, to get them to be a little bit more proactive in the governance process and to begin to shift culture and perception of young people.
The campaign is fully funded by the European Union, but it’s locally driven. INEC has been a heavy supporter of the campaign.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Yahaya Bello, noted that the forthcoming sensitization concert slated on Saturday 25 June, 2022, in Abuja is being sponsored by the European Union. He went on to state EU is a strong partner of INEC in sensitization and education to the youths on the need to fully participate in electoral processes in Nigeria.
“This exercise is at the instance of the European Union. They partnering with INEC, having seen the improvement in the work INEC under the chairmanship of Professor Mahmoud Yakubu. The exercise is geared towards sensitizing and mobilising Nigerians to participate in vote registration and ultimately in casting their votes.
“INEC has came out this support this EU initiative by deploying 50 IVR machines in this venue. INEC has also deployed more than 100 staff to ensure that the programme goes smoothly.”