REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE ECOWAS NETWORK OF ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS (ECONEC) AND CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE VALIDATION WORKSHOP ON THE STUDY OF THE COST OF ELECTION IN THE ECOWAS REGION ORGANISED BY ECONEC AT BON HOTEL STRATTON, ABUJA, ON MONDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2018
- Let me first of all welcome you all to this Workshop. As the majority of participants and resource persons are coming from outside Nigeria, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to Abuja. Only last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat co-hosted an international training workshop for election professionals from the Commonwealth Africa Region. Today, we are pleased to host this Workshop to validate the study on the cost of elections in the ECOWAS region undertaken by the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC).
- The study is part of ECONEC’s two-year Work Plan (2016-2018). It is borne out of the serious concern by all Electoral Commissions in the sub-region about the spiraling cost of conducting elections. With every cycle, the cost of elections keeps rising, making many countries unable fund critical aspects of the electoral process as a sovereign responsibility. The ever rising cost of voter registration and the compilation of a credible voters’ register, recruitment and training of electoral officials, provision of electoral logistics, election security, civic and voter education, procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, deployment of electoral technology, undertaking regular engagement with stakeholders and handling of pre-election and post-election litigations are enormous. The task of meeting such extensive expenditure has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in our region. It is against this background that Governing Board of ECONEC inaugurated this study to explore what we can do as Election Managers, working together with national stakeholders and development partners, to find ways to reduce the cost of elections without jettisoning new innovations or compromising the quality, transparency and credibility of elections.
- ECONEC has undertaken Needs Assessment, Solidarity and Mid-term Review missions to several member States. The objective is for Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in our sub-region to share experience, expertise and even pool resources not only with a view to ensuring best practice through peer review but also in order to reduce the cost of conducting elections among our member States. I am glad to report that it is in this spirit of cooperation that Burkina Faso assisted neighbouring Niger Republic with ballot boxes and the printing of the voters’ register for the February 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Similarly, Ghana provided support to the Republic of Liberia with the printing of the voters’ register for the October 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections. Indeed, INEC Nigeria assisted the Republic of Liberia with the deployment of ICT Experts to clean up the disputed voters’ register in order to break the logjam to the conduct of the December 2017 Presidential run-off.
- At a bilateral level, countries within the region have also provided material and technical assistance to one another to support the conduct of credible elections. The latest example is Nigeria’s support for the ongoing voter registration exercise in Guinea-Bissau. Even when an election is a sovereign national responsibility, multi-lateral agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), working together with other development partners, have, in some cases, provided support through the donor basket to fund certain electoral expenditure. While this is most commendable, it is imperative for Electoral Commissions in the ECOWAS region to rethink the way elections are funded in such a manner as to make the electoral process more cost-effective but yet free, fair and credible. This is because of the contending expenditure of government on other aspects of national development. An expensive election that ushers in a Government that lacks the resources to fulfill its campaign promises to citizens may, in the long run, erode public confidence in elections in particular and the democratic process in general.
- The obvious first step is to conduct a study on why elections cost so much. From such a study, we can then determine what can be done to reduce the cost. Mindful of the different jurisdictions within the ECOWAS region, we selected six countries for the study, consisting of two countries from each of the three official linguistic blocs: Nigeria and Liberia (Anglophone), Benin Republic and Senegal (Francophone) and Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau (Lusophone). The three experts that anchored the study were drawn from Nigeria (Prof. Adele Jinadu), Benin Republic (Francis Laleye) and Cape Verde (Jose Cabral Sanches). On behalf of ECONEC, I would like to thank them for deploying their experience and expertise in undertaking the study in spite of the short period of time available and limited resources.
- Let me appreciate the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) for the support to ECONEC and for championing the idea of pooling electoral resources together in support of the electoral process in the region. The idea of pooling resources (ballot boxes, vehicles for electoral logistics etc.) together to be deployed in support of elections in countries within the region on the basis of need is now more urgent than ever before. ECONEC is in full support of the establishment of an election materials depot in Lungi, Sierra Leone, where some facilities such as trucks for electoral logistics already exist. We support this initiative and would cooperate with ECOWAS for its actualization in line with the organisation’s mandate on electoral assistance to member States.
- On this note, let me also appreciate the consistent support of our development partners, notably the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for helping us to equip and sustain our permanent secretariat in Abuja as well as the grant to undertake the study on the cost of elections in West Africa; the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for sponsoring this validation Workshop, in addition to the mid-term review of elections in our region. OSIWA, GIZ and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISA) have also been supporting ECONEC activities for which we are most grateful. We also wish to acknowledge the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) for co-organising with ECONEC and INEC Nigeria, the successful international workshop on the use of technology in elections, here in Abuja in April this year.
- Once again, I welcome all participants and resource persons to this Workshop. We look forward to receiving the validated Report which we will share with all Electoral Commissions in our sub-region as a giant step towards reducing the cost of elections in West Africa.
- I thank you and God bless.