Media Rights Agenda (MRA), in collaboration with the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), is building the capacity of TMG member organisations around the country to carry out series of activities aimed at assessing the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC) for the 2015 elections, using the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. The project will also assess the preparedness of other agencies of government involved in the conduct of the elections.
Under the “Freedom of Information and Elections Project”, about 180 civil society organizations from all the states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, which are member organizations of the TMG, are being trained to use the FOI Act to engage the process leading to the 2015 elections to ensure that preparations for the elections are adequate.
The training workshops began in August with TMG member organizations from the States in the South West Zone and are scheduled to end in October with member organizations from States in the North East Zone.
The project is aimed at revamping the TMG’s decade and a half-old approach to election monitoring which was previously focused on observing election-day activities without significant attention to the preparatory activities of the relevant public institutions and the election management body.
Explaining the project, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said: “since the 1998/1999 elections when the TMG began monitoring elections in Nigeria, despite its best efforts to engage engage the electoral process, there was very little possibility for it to positively influence preparations for the elections as most of its efforts were focused on election day activities. By election day, all the failures in planning and preparations would already have been committed and could hardly be changed at that point. Besides, the TMG typically usually deployed about 10,000 election observers around the country, which is less than 10 per cent of the 120,000 polling units where voting usually takes place nationwide. We are hoping that with this new approach, alongside the TMG’s traditional role in election observation, we can significantly impact the quality of elections held in Nigeria.”.
Mr. Ojo noted that the 2015 elections will be the first major election to be conducted in Nigeria since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2011 adding that “the plan is that representatives of the organisations who have been trained will, between now and February 2015 when the general elections will be conducted, will submit thousands of FOI requests to the relevant public institutions. The responses to these requests would be analysed to assess the level of preparedness or otherwise, of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant public institutions to conduct free and fair elections in 2015.”
According to him, “although the objective of the project is to build the capacity of TMG member organisations to understand and use the FOI Act to demand for information relevant to the preparations by various agencies of government involved in conducting elections in Nigeria, its purpose is to also create a culture of using the FOI Act in making request for information from public institutions.”
The project is supported by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Democratic Governance for Development (DGD II) Project. The DGD II Project is a joint donor-funded project managed by UNDP in support of deepening democracy in Nigeria and is funded with contributions from the European Union, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the UNDP.