Ahead of 2023 generation elections in Nigeria, ActionAid Nigeria, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Yiaga Africa and others seek domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance, ACDEG, to Nigeria’s democratic system.
This was their position at a ‘National Stakeholders’ Forum and Policy Documents Dissemination’ under the ‘Africa We Want’ project organised by ActionAid Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.
In a keynote address by the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, who was represented by the Director of Programme, ActionAid Nigeria, Tasallah Chibok, said Nigeria is a signatory to the ACDEG, which is a continent-wide normative framework for democratic consolidation and response to by the African Union.
According to Obi Nigeria is yet to domesticate the Charter despite being a signatory to it which is to be in line with the country’s constitutional requirements, while she acknowledged the journey to democratic consolidation across the world.
She also explained that the National Stakeholders’ Forum is to provide insight into the state of the ACDEG implementation in the country vis a vis its conformity to national legislation, democratic practice and most importantly to mobilize the necessary action towards full domestication and set in motion the necessary mechanism towards fulfilling its reporting obligations.
She said: “As part of its commitment to living the tenets of democracy, Nigeria is a signatory to a host of international instruments aimed at strengthening democratic states and one of such is the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG).
“The ACDEG is a continent-wide normative framework for democratic consolidation and a response by the African Union to the aspirations for a new democratic culture and collective responsibility toward improving the democratic experience for Africans.
“The Charter is explicit in its provisions towards constitutionalism as the basis of the existence of African States with a strong respect for and promotion of democratic principles including; the rule of law, gender quality, transparency, accountability, participatory and responsive governance with regular free and fair elections conducted through and with strong independent democratic institutions at the service of democracy and nation-building.
“Nigeria’s commitment to the Charter is in no doubt signing the Charter in July 2007 and ratifying in January 2012. However, the country is yet to domesticate the Charter in line with the country’s constitutional requirements. While the principles of the Charter find expression in various laws and processes in the country including the general principles of the constitution, the electoral framework among others it is yet to be fully domesticated.”
According to her (Obi) one critical issue in the country lagging in its reporting responsibilities an obligations. Article 49 calls for state obligations to reporting.
“State Parties shall submit every two years, from the state the Charter comes into force, a report to the Commission on the legislative or other relevant measures taken with a view to giving effect to the principles and commitments of the Charter.
“This was the bases of the ActionAid Nigeria’s engagement with the ACDEG through the ‘Africa We Want’ project, a Pan-African Initiative aimed at mobilizing citizens’ engagement in the domestication o ACDEG and educating and mobilizing citizens action towards democratic processes including elections that ate responsive to the ideals enshrined in the ACDEG.”, she stated.
She also made it known that the organization has succeeded in building a core of non-state actors dedicated t mobilizing action towards domestication and the country’s reporting responsibility and obligations
She maintained that their believe as an organisation is to build consensus and commitment towards achieving the above and further demonstrate belief in building the ‘Africa We Want’ on strong democratic values and nation-states “committed to democracy and governance at the service of the people as enshrined in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Good Governance.”
Meanwhile, the President of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Quadri Olaleye, threw weight behind the move for the domestication of the ACDEG in Nigeria.
According to Olaleye it is high time Nigerian masses dictate the pace of the electoral process and vote those they want to be their leaders including participating in governance and not for the government to be deciding for them what they want.
He said: “I think it is the right programme at the right time like I said that Nigeria is facing a lot of problems, where democracy is not working it supposed to work. The voice of the masses is not being heard, government decides what to do to the masses instead of the masses deciding to the government what should be done.
“So the programme is coming at the right time and we as Trade Union Congress, TUC, we are ready to partner with them, we are going to disseminate the information and we are going to play a key role in ensuring that we have true democracy in Nigeria where people determine who are the people to be their leaders, not the leaders determining who wants to vote for them.
“On peaceful electoral process, the TUC boss said, “I think one of the first to do TUC as a labour centre and counterpart with NLC we have to recognize that we have to have the power to decide the people who are going to be our leader so we need to do more sensitization, not only when the election is coming but before the election.
“We need to educate our people to understand the power in their hands that power because in our unity we have the population. You will agree with me that 70 per cent of the Nigerian population are workers and based on that we are going to decide who are going to be their leader, and most of the time our people don’t know that is why we need to educate and sensitise them, and if possible we also are the power to be so we can also have our platform what I mean is the political party that we can advance the interest of our members and populace at large.”
The representative from Yiaga Africa, Ibrahim Farouk, who presented the Policy Brief on the role of the ACDEG in promoting democratic accountability said the Charter is to promote African governance standards, including universal values and principles such as respect for human rights, the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law, regular, transparent, free and fair elections, interdiction, rejection, and condemnation of unconstitutional changes of governments. Other areas of intervention include the interdependence of the judiciary, separation of powers, democratic culture an practice, good governance, fight against corruption and impunity, political pluralism, sustainable development, peace, and security (Articles 2-22, 27, 36-43).
Meanwhile, explaining on National Citizen’s Report as one of the documents, Jaye Gaskiya said, “The first thing to note of any democracy is the quality is actually measured by the level of participation of citizens because democracy is supposed to be a representative form of governance. With respect to Nigeria, we operate a system where you don’t have too many legal constraints on citizens’ participation.
“In fact, the spirit and letter of our constitution it encourages citizens’ participation but you so have a political practice that constraints citizens’ participation that makes it impossible that negates the provisions of the legal instruments and because of the weakness of the judiciary a situation where it makes it inaccessible to citizens in order to expand their scope of participation is also hindered and hampered.
“Looking at what we are doing here today which is the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance, many of the things you can find in the Charter is existing in Nigeria; electoral body, by law we have a multi-party system.
“In the context of the recent election in Edo State was a really a multi-party state or two-party state. We have a dominant one-party system that is splintered into sub-parties that militates citizens’ participation.
“The Charter itself has a challenge that it is not domesticated. We don’t have the charter domesticated, but if we have it domesticated the implication is that it means we have admitted it into the body of our laws.
“Like the African Charter on Peoples’ Rights we have domesticated it so that it means I can go to court and cite the African Charter and the court will admit it as a legitimate document, but now we have don’t have that with the African Charter.
The real task right now is getting the Charter domesticated and beyond that is to get citizens to understand the contents of the Charter so that if citizens own it we maybe we will begin to challenge all those malpractices.
On the timeline on achieving the domestication of the Charter in Nigeria, he (Gaskiya) said, “As people, we can give ourselves a timeline. For us as actors, we will want this happen before 2023, at least two years before that election that we have the Charter domesticated and all the relevant provisions of it that have not yet found their way into our laws.”