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By Adedapo Adesanya

The ECOWAS Commission has pledged sustained collaboration with Nigerian political actors and stakeholders towards holding a violence-free and credible general election in February and March 2023.

In a statement, it was disclosed that the pledge was made by the ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs, Dr Aderemi Ajibewa, at the start of a 4-day dialogue and mediation training and interactive workshop organised for members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other political stakeholders from the north-west and north-east geo-political zones in Kano State, Nigeria on Tuesday.

Represented by a Principal Programme Officer, Mr Ebenezer Asiedu, Mr Ajibewa urged participants to pay attention to the use of dialogue and mediation in addressing election-related disputes as the 2023 general elections fast approach.

He noted that, “The sustenance and enhancement of ECOWAS’ strategic engagement with the electoral process in Nigeria is an indication of our commitment and preference towards using dialogue and mediation in resolving electoral disputes and violence”. This, among others, is well espoused in its 2001 supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance and the 2008 ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF).

Lamenting that electoral disputes have become a major source of conflicts in West Africa, with violence often triggered or heightened by political patronage and communal and sectarian tensions, he further stressed the need to work together to forestall attendant electoral violence.

He explained that the major task before the participants was brainstorming and collaboratively identifying contending issues around the forthcoming general elections and working out strategies to mitigate potential electoral violence before, during and after the exercise.

The IPAC national chairman, Mr Yabagi Sani, took special notice of the timing of the workshop while opining that the stakeholders are the “custodians of today’s democracy in Nigeria”.

He observed that for significant reasons, the current electioneering processes in Nigeria had attracted the genuine attention of key stakeholders of the electoral process more than at any other time in history.

The opening ceremony was enriched by goodwill messages given by the Kano state Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Daniel Itse Amah, who assured of adequate security provision and detailed intelligence gathering efforts aimed at ensuring violence-free elections.

The representative of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Sulaiman Alkali, deplored the winner-takes-it-all syndrome and disclosed that the Commission is currently saddled with more than 600 electoral-related litigations.

In his goodwill message, the Head of the liaison office of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr James Aji, restated the strategic importance for ECOWAS and UNOWAS to work collaboratively to promote peace and enhance the stability of the region.

The training and interactive engagement workshop are being facilitated by Dr Willie Eselebor, an independent conflict resolution expert, supported by Dr Brown Odigie and backstopped by a team from the Directorate of Political Affairs, ECOWAS Commission.

The workshop will, among others, provide opportunities for reflections on ECOWAS electoral assistance, management of electoral disputes and interventions, as well as practical techniques and skills for dialogue and mediation while also featuring simulation exercises, role-plays and the unearthing of IPAC’s place in the monitoring of the Nigerian Peace Accord.

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