The National Orientation Agency (NOA) held a two day zonal workshop on citizen’s participation and voter education to sensitize citizens ahead of the forthcoming 2019 elections.
The workshop with the theme: “Improving The Quality Of Citizens Participation In Governance Through Civic Education” was supported by Open Society Initiative For West Africa (OSIWA).
The chairman of the occassion, District Head of Bauchi, Alhaji Nuru Adamu Jumba who declared the workshop opened said, citizens must be properly sensitised on the electoral process especially on how to handle ballot papers on election day to reduce invalid votes being recorded.
Adamu advised security agencies against being partisan in electoral process adding that, their duty is to provide security for both the electorates and INEC officials.
NOA Director General, Dr Garba Abari said that, the Agency was doing a lot to sensitise Nigerians on civic responsibilities with regards to democratic processes especially elections.
“Civic education typically encompasses the broad concepts under pinning a democratic society. These include the respective roles and responsibilities played by citizens, government, political and special interests, the mass media, and the business and non-profit sectors, it also includes the significance of periodic and competitive elections.
“Emphasis is on citizens awareness and participation in all aspects of democratic society. Civic education is a continual process that must not be tied only to the electoral cycle. This is not however to say that voter information and voter education are not an important part of the larger civic education endeavors,”he said.
The DG, who was represented by Project Director, Dr David Akoji, said that, NOA with support from OSIWA was planning series of capacity building workshops for civil societies, citizens groups and other state agencies in selected locations in the six geopolitical zones .
“We realise that the ability of people to participate in elections free from the fear of harm is essential to inclusive, credible elections and this right is protected by human security and universal sufferage. In Nigeria, as is the case in many African nations, this freedom from fear during and after elections has not been a reality for many citizens.
“As the general elections approach in Nigeria, we have seen a rise in hate speech and fake news, especially in the social media, all of which have potential for unleashing violence if not checked through proper citizen awareness programmes,” he added.
Dr Abari noted that, elections in Nigeria are characterised by large numbers of voided votes as well as the emerging trend of vote buying.
“It is often the case that majority of voters, most of who reside in rural Nigeria are not exposed to adequate voter education so as to equip them with the knowledge to exercise their civic rights by voting correctly at elections.
“Many of our electorate express frustration and fear that their votes will not count. This no doubt contributes largely to low voter turn-out at most elections. Various parts of the country are beset with security challenges that threaten the peaceful coexistence of citizens,” he added.
In his welcome address, the Bauchi State Director NOA, Nuru Yusuf Kobi said that the agency has conducted series of sensitisation programmes across the state to sensitise people on the need to exercise their civic rights.
He said the workshop was organised to sensitize the participants and stakeholders on the need to ensure that government and elected representatives become more accountable to the citizens.
Kobi described the workshop as timely and will increase awareness on citizens participation in the process of governance for the rapid development of the country.