By the Women’s Situation Room-Nigeria
The Women’s Situation Room is a process that engages women in collaboration with youth, engage and lobby key stakeholders to actively support their call for peaceful elections. We get our mandate from UNSCR 1325 which reaffirms that women must be involved in peace processes and peacebuilding. The process culminates in a physical Situation Room where an all women observer team is trained and deployed to observe elections and send to the Situation Room incidents from the field which are analysed by our team of analysts and which our team of Eminent Women from Africa and Nigeria act upon in a timely manner.
For us women, the key issues in this election are security, inclusiveness and participation. With regards to the issue of security besides the peace accord signed by the candidates and the media messages, security should be provided at the polling units to prevent violence from erupting. This is because any time violence erupts women and children suffer most. The law enforcement agencies should, apart from providing security at the polling booths deal with situations of breakdown of law and order promptly and prosecute offenders. Unfortunately the Amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 which would have birthed the electoral offences tribunal has not been signed into law. As it is the prosecution of election offenders therefore still lies with the Police and the Attorney General’s Office. But Nigeria is obliged under the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections 2002 to do things that will safeguard the safety and security of the people.
On the issue of inclusiveness, the Police are mandated to take care of internal security this is a civic and civil responsibility. The High Court in Sokoto, the Court of Appeal and recently the Federal High Court Lagos gave Judgment against the deployment of the Military during elections. In disregard to the Judgment, soldiers have taken over the civil space instead of safeguarding territorial integrity. With the combat ready mood the soldiers are displaying, how will this affect the women in terms of confidence building and intimidation?
Yesterday, pictures were shown on National television of soldiers whipping people and making them frog jump in Lagos. There have been opposing views on the effect of the scenario playing out. Some people have argued that the presence of soldiers on the streets will engender confidence while others have argued that people will be intimidated. The use of the Military in the elections raises the issue as to whether women will be afraid to go out and vote.
We welcome the ICC’s statement that any person fingered in Electoral Violence will face the wrath of the Law. With the multiplicity of security forces including the military deployed to cover the elections, the question again arises as to who is in charge (is it INEC, the Police or the Military?). For the women is important for them to know the command structure with regards to who is in charge and who to report to when there are problems. This will lead to confidence building in the process.
Again Nigeria’s obligation under the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections 2002 comes into play
Finally again on the issue of inclusiveness, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol obliges member states to protect people with various forms of disability. We are confident that INEC will upscale her commitments to the marginalized groups in terms of making them priority in the election processes. Apart from women with Physical disability, older persons and pregnant women suffer varying forms of disability e.g. standing for long periods of time and cannot run fast in emergency situations. It’s essential they are given priority during accreditation, voting and counting.
We pray for tomorrow’s elections to be peaceful and enjoin to remember that “PEACE IS IN OUR HANDS”
Signed: Joy Onyesoh, National Coordinator, WSR-Nigeria