Senator Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate on Thursday, 6 July 2017 in Abuja charged heads of election management bodies in the ECOWAS region to always deliver credible elections that will deepen democracy and good governance in West Africa.

“You should collectively work for an electoral process that we can be proud of and even export to other regions,” the Senate president told members of the governing board of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), who paid him a courtesy visit led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, President of the ECONEC board and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Senate president observed that some years ago a number of countries in the region were under military rule or authoritarian governments. The fact that all ECOWAS countries are now under democracy is a credit to the efforts put in by the electoral management bodies, he added.

Senator Saraki, chair of Nigeria’s two-chamber National Assembly explained that the country’s lawmakers would continue to support election administrators to deliver credible elections in Nigeria. He cited the prompt passage of a bill for the amendment of Nigeria’s electoral law as a demonstration of this support.

Speaking earlier, Prof. Yakubu underscored the importance of credible elections to the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in the ECOWAS region and the commitment of ECONEC to the realisation of this objective.

“The goal is to have an effective ECONEC that supports democracy rather than an ECOWAS military force as a result of election related conflicts,” the President of the ECONEC board said.

The courtesy visit to the Nigerian Senate was part of the activities organised for the ECONEC governing board members on the first of their two-day meeting in Abuja.

Welcoming his colleagues earlier at INEC Headquarters, Prof Yakubu said the conduct of regular and periodic elections was the first step towards the development of democracy and democratic governance.

“However, the contestation for power and the outcome of elections, especially the perception of citizens as to whether elections are free, fair and credible can either enhance or disrupt the democratic process,” he stressed.

The ECONEC board chief said that given that the conduct of “elections has been a trigger for violent conflicts as well as a panacea for post-conflict peace building,” the “impartiality of the election management body in the conduct of elections plays a critical role in determining whether the outcome of elections is accepted or not.”

He told the gathering which included INEC Commissioners that the board meeting would among others, review the ECONEC 2017-2018 Work Plan, the Statute of the Network and details of the planned Solidarity and Needs Assessment Missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are holding crucial elections in October 2017 and March 2018 respectively.

Mrs Catherine Angai, representative of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), which has been supporting ECONEC since its inception in 2008, reiterated the commitment of the NGO to good governance and credible elections in the region.

She commended EMBs in the region for working to secure their independence in the delivery of elections with integrity.

Prof. Yakubu in company of the other ECONEC governing board members also commissioned the ECONEC Secretariat provided by INEC to the regional network, within the complex of the Nigerian Electoral Institute, Abuja.

Other members of the five-nation  board attending the Abuja meeting, the first since the board’s election last March at the Network’s 5th biennial General Assembly in Cotonou, are Mr. Emmanuel Tiando from Benin Republic, Ahmed Newton Barry of Burkina Faso, Jose Sambu from Guinea-Bissau and Maria do Rosario Goncalves from Cabo Verde. Some of them would proceed on the ECONEC missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone from Abuja.