The President of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said it was imperative for Electoral Commissions in the ECOWAS region to rethink the way elections were funded.
Yakubu, who is also Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), gave the advice in his remarks at a workshop to validate the study on the cost of elections in the ECOWAS region undertaken by ECONEC on Monday in Abuja.
He said that such should be done in a manner that would 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.”
Yakubu said that the task of meeting the rising cost of elections has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in the ECOWAS region.
He said that it was borne out of the serious concern by all Electoral Commissions in the sub-region about the spiraling cost of conducting elections that the ECONEC’s two-year Work Plan (2016-2018) was being revalidated.
Yakubu said that with every cycle, the cost of elections kept rising thus making many countries unable to fund critical aspects of the electoral process as a sovereign responsibility.
These, according to him, include ever rising cost of voter registration and the compilation of a credible voters’ register, recruitment, training of electoral officials and provision of electoral logistics.
Others are 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 litigation.
He said that it was against the aforementioned that the Governing Board of ECONEC inaugurated the study to explore means to reduce the cost of elections.
He explained that the study was not intended to jettison new innovations or compromise the quality, transparency and credibility of elections.
Yakubu said that ECONEC had undertaken NEEDs Assessment, Solidarity and Mid-term Review missions to several member-States.
“The objective is for Election Management Bodies in our sub-region to share experience, expertise and even pool resources with a view to ensuring best practice through peer review.
“It is also in order to reduce the cost of conducting elections among our member-States.”
Yakubu said that it was in the 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.”
Yakubu commended 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.
He said that 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 was 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.”(NAN)