Imo-based non-state actors agree to work toward violence-free governorship poll

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Owerri, Imo.

Imo-based non-state actors have resolved to strengthen and drive advocacies that will encourage citizens’ participation and ensure a violence-free governorship election in the state on November 11.

The group , including different civil society organisations, community and religious leaders, made the resolution at a conference on electoral conflicts management, organised by the SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria in Owerri.

Their resolve followed the identification of the forms, types, causes and triggers as well as community and state preparedness and response mechanisms to manage electoral conflicts in the state, ahead of the governorship poll.

In a speech, a representative of Jamaatu Nasaral Islam, Imo, Alh. Ibrahim Saleh, identified internal party wrangling, selfish interest of the political class as well as tribal and religious conflicts as some factors that trigger electoral conflicts in the state.

Saleh said that tribal and religious division, which promote hatred and havoc, would continue to affect growth and development in the state, if not controlled.

“Everyone, irrespective of tribe and religion is special, and will play a role toward peaceful election in Imo,” Saleh further said.

Another speaker from Foundation for Youth Emancipation and Development, Mr Ugochukwu Okafor, said the incumbency factor, vote and PVC buying, hate speeches by politicians and the lack of transparency by INEC also trigger electoral conflict.

“The situation of a ruling party not allowing other political parties to use the stadium, media outfits or any state-owned faciltiies for campaigns, also triggers electoral conflicts and does not augur well for democracy,” Okafor said.

A representative of the African Center for Cooperate Responsibility (ACCR), Mrs Ogechi Okehielam, expressed concern that there were no preparations to respond to violent conflicts before, during and after elections in the state.

Okehielam called on both the state and non-state actors to collaborate to ensure robust conflict management mechanisms during the electioneering process.

A representative of the Sisters With  Goal Initiative (SWAG-I), Mrs Ezihe Ozichukwu, said a lack of level playing field and perceived INEC’s partiality were indications of early warning signs of electoral conflicts.

The stakeholders agreed to drive advocacy for citizens’ participation and peaceful elections through targeted key messaging, awareness, media and community engagements.

They also advocated for a review of various town union Constitutions to ensure that Presidents-General remained apolitical before being elected as community leaders.

They further resolved to drive an advocacy that would lead to the establishment of a Peace Commission to augment the efforts of non-state actors in electoral conflict management in the state.

Earlier, the Technical Coordinator of SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria, Mrs Grace Sambo, said the conference was organised to strengthen the network of non-state actors to work together in order to promote peaceful election in the state.

Sambo said it was the responsibility of the non-state actors to drive campaigns and ensure that peace prevailed in the state and the South-East.

“Let’s think of how we can get ourselves out of the electoral conflicts and other security situations because, if it continued like this, it will get only worse,” she said.

Also, the Consortium Manager of the organisation, Mr David Gabriel, described SOS Children’s Villages as a non-governmental, social development organisation, working in 139 countries and territories.

Gabriel said the body aimed at finding the most appropriate response to the situation of children without parental care and those at risk of losing parental care.

He said the conference was organised to establish and strengthen non-state actors that work around peace building and conflict management and also identify the various forms of electoral conflict triggers in the state.

“SOS CV Nigeria is the lead consortium partner of component six (6b) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU SDGN II).

“SOS CV Nigeria is working in partnership with CISLAC and CAPPA.

“The overall objective of the project is to foster a functioning pluralistic, inclusive, participatory and representative democracy in Nigeria through the promotion of peaceful and non-violent electoral process,” Gabriel said. 

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