By Nathaniel Gana
In recognition of his exemplary leadership and achievements in the last two years, the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC) has conferred its Honorary President title, the first of its kind, on the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
According to a statement signed by the newly elected President of the Sub Regional body, Dr. Maria do Rosario Lopes Pereira Goncavies, the decision was taken after the emergence on 7thAugust of a new leadership team that would steer the affairs of the organization for the next two years. The decision, she affirmed, was in accordance with the provisions of the ECONEC Statute.
Dr Goncavies, who is also the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Cape Verde said: “The General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution conferring the title of Honorary President of ECONEC on Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in recognition of his exemplary leadership and contributions to the promotion of democracy and good governance in the ECOWAS region”.
The network also commended the outgoing Steering Committee and the staff of the secretariat, stressing the need for the consolidation of the gains recorded under the leadership of the outgoing Steering Committee.
The statement reads in part: “the Assembly, respecting the principle of the Network’s linguistic balance (Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone) as enshrined in its statute has elected the following members to the new 5-member Steering Committee for the next two years (2019-2021): “President – Dr. Maria do Rosario Lopes Pereira Goncavies Chair of CNE Cabo Verde; 1st Vice President, Mr. Newton Ahmed Barry, Chair CENI, Burkina Faso; 2nd Vice President, Mr. Momarr Alieu Njai, Chair of IEC The Gambia; Treasurer, Mr. Amadou Ba, Chair, CENI, Mali; and Deputy Treasurer, Madam Jean Mensa, Chair EC Ghana”.
The Steering Committee will be assisted by the Permanent Secretary of the Network and the Head of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division (EAD), Mr. Sourou Francis Oke”.
The ECOWAS umbrella electoral network disclosed that the next regular General Assembly will take place in Praia, capital of Vabo Verde (Cape Verde) in 2021.
In an address before the election, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on behalf of the outgoing steering committee appreciated the network for the opportunity to serve as the 8th successive President of ECONEC which was formed in 2008.
He said: “ECONEC is basically the coming together of the electoral commissions of the sub-region with a view to helping one another, to entrench credible elections in the sub-region through peer support. In Cotonou, we agreed that we had to have a work plan and the workplan had the following components: one for countries about to conduct elections, ECONEC should organize the needs assessment or solidarity missions or review meetings ahead of forth coming major elections.
“Secondly, we are worried about the cost of elections in this region and we felt we should do something about it. Thirdly, we are interested in how the media reports elections as very important partners in the democratic process”.
Reeling out the details of his successful stewardship, the immediate past ECONEC President added that with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), “we engaged consultants to undertake a study on the cost of elections in the sub-region, looking at the three linguistic blocs. For the Anglophone, we chose Nigeria and Liberia; for the francophone we chose Benin Republic and Senegal; for Lusophone, we chose Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.
“The report of the consultant was validated in a major meeting again hosted by Nigeria in October last year. I’m very happy to say that the result of the study has been published in two volumes, one in English, the other one in French, while we are waiting on the Portuguese translation. Similarly. we hosted 36 professional media men and women from the sub-region here in Abuja in October last year and we extended our activities on inclusivity issues. There was a meeting held in Accra, Ghana in May this year and this was followed by this major meeting we had on inclusivity here in Abujaon Monday.”
He continued: “The second aspect of our work on Needs Assessment, solidarity missions and midterm reviews took us for the first time in the history of the Network to eight different countries in the sub-region. I am very happy to say that the mission to various countries was actually very successful. We had interactions with CSOs, the media, political parties, regulatory agencies, the judiciary, the executives in those countries and in two instances in Sierra Leone and in Liberia the meeting was instrumental in facilitating the release of funds to the electoral commissions for the conduct of elections”.
“The good thing is that in our sub-region today, all the 15 countries are democracies conducting periodic elections. As I said in Sierra Leone in July 2017, gone are the days in West Africa where we had one government in the capital and another one in the bush. All the governments are now in the capital cities conducting periodic elections. it is our responsibilities to work together and to support each other. Part of our working together has resulted in the following:
“In 2016, we visited Niger Republic. At that time, they had issues with some of the election materials, the ballot boxes and the voter cards. I’m happy to say that Burkina Faso came to the aid of Niger republic.
“Secondly, when issues arose with the printing of the voter cards in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso again offered to assist. The UNDP also stepped in. In Liberia, there were issues with the printing of the register of voters. Again, Ghana came to the assistance of Liberia. The registers were printed in the Republic of Ghana”.
“For Nigeria, we have been supportive across the sub-region. Electoral logistics support for Niger Republic, Benin Republic, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. In fact, it is Nigeria’s assistance to Guinea Bissau that resulted in the registration of voters and successful conduct of parliamentary elections in March this year.
The former ECONEC President said the new leadership of the network has its work cut out because in 2020, six countries in the sub-region would be organizing presidential elections. He assured that the existing cooperation among Election Management Bodies in the region would be strengthened to consolidate on their democracies.
“We will continue to help each other in the sub-region subject to the availability of resources. But we can see that that kind of relationship has helped us. We shouldn’t wait until governments act. There are things that we can do to support one another and to consolidate the democracies in our sub-region”, he assured.