Youths in the South-South region of Nigeria- Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers, under the auspices of South-South Youths Electoral Reforms Forum, have called for the review of the 2022 Electoral Act and the 1999 constitution.

The initiative is being coordinated by the Whillz Trust Foundation (WTF) with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Speaking, the Executive Director of WTF, Rtn. Aaron Anyanwu noted that the objective of the initiative is to build youth consensus on prioritising electoral reform recommendations that can improve the electoral process if implemented.

“To ensure that youths are fully engaged and participate in the electoral reform process, WTF conducted a youth survey in the six South-South states and organized two youth forums. The youth forums were held in Benin City on February 20th, and in Port Harcourt on February 23rd.

“The youth forums were attended by a wide range of youth representing different organs of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), political parties, social-cultural groups, persons with disabilities, media, and Civil Society Organizations.

“We hereby use this medium to call on the National Assembly to create platforms to engage young people in Nigeria in order to contribute to the ongoing electoral reform process, just as we also call on Nigeria youths to engage key electoral stakeholders so as to ensure their voices are not only heard but included in the ongoing reforms,’Anyanwu said.

While speaking, one of the facilitators of the event, Amb. Eberechukwu Odunze listed the factors that shaped the 2023 general election in the country, as insecurity, tribal ethnic bias, naira redesign, vote buying, voter apathy and misinformation.

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One of the participants, Mr. Robert Derrick expressing satisfaction over the outcome of the event, called on the Nigerian youths to embrace peace and shun any forms of electoral violence before, during and after any elections.

Having debated extensively on the challenges from the 2023 general elections in Benin and Port Harcourt forums, the South-South youths recommended the following;

Introduction of electronic voting and compulsory electronic collation and real time transmission of election results; ensuring voter registration and collection of PVCs is conducted by INEC non-stop throughout the year and make voting processes easier by allowing registered voters to vote at any INEC designated polling unit; ensuring elected and appointed political office holders resign before contesting elections; provision for six year single tenure for President and Governors; removal of the powers to appoint INEC chairman and the commissioners from the president; creation of election thresholds for political parties to meet before participating in national or state level elections; introduction of independent candidacy to allow more youth participate in the electoral processas candidates; reduce and harmonize the threshold for nomination forms for political parties; ensuring political parties adopt direct mode of primaries; prohibiting political parties from funding any aspect of INEC’s deployment of materials and adhoc officialsto polling units; making voter register audit compulsory for INEC for every general election; unbundling INEC and establishing a commission to investigate and prosecute election offenders; and outsource PVC distribution to credible business outlets.

Other recommendations include making provision for absentee or early voting for election workers who may wish to vote ahead of commencement time; ensuring that persons with disabilities can physically access polling units and use electoral materials like ballot papers and braille ballot guide; ensuring relevant sections in the National Disability Act be incorporated in the electoral act to ensure that persons with disabilities can physically access polling units and use election materials like ballot papers and braille ballot guide; Reverse to the 2010 amendment act that recognizes omission of parties as a ground for approaching the court; setting up special election courts to hear election matters; ensuring that courts finish hearing election cases according to law before the swearing in of elected officials; allowing live transmission of the election litigation process from tribunals to up to the Supreme Court; and INEC should be made to prove in court that an election was done correctly according to law.

Whillz Trust Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, non-governmental, and public interest organization, with interest and core values in leadership, democracy, governance, and citizen engagement and mobilization for participation in electoral processes and elections.

Whillz Trust Foundation is currently working to increase the engagement of young people in political processes in the South-South region.