SING Nigeria, a not-for-profit working to better the lot of people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, has held a Press Conference to kick-start its nonpartisan campaign for voter education and increased voters participation tagged: Vote A Must. The conference had in attendance a number of media agencies who were briefed on the aims of the campaign and the strategy to be adopted to ensure success.
Speaking at the event SING’s Director of Programmes, Mr. Olufemi Lawson stated that it is important for citizens to participate in the electoral process and “imperative, to demand from the various authorities, that fundamental steps be taken, to mitigate against a reoccurrence of our ugly past as a Nation.”
Mr. Lawson about expressed the concerns of SING about “the security of lives and properties of our people in the Niger Delta region, judging by the antecedents of some politicians, who are now playing leading roles, in some states of the region ahead the election.” He also conveyed the disappointment of the organization that “till date, not the Federal government nor the Bayelsa State government have taken up the responsibility, of prosecuting those who were fingered to have either sponsor or been directly involved in the December 2015 Bayelsa governorship election”, even after the state government had received and adopted the report of SING under the auspices of the Commission of Enquiry set up by the state government.
On her part, Dr. Itari Turner, Director of Research of SING, opined that there is an emergency in the Niger Delta and that “addressing that emergency begins with fully engaging with the electoral process and the laws of the land. Imperfect the system may be”, calling on the people of the region to participate so as to “constructively engage it to build the homeland of our dreams that fully takes advantage of the limitless opportunities that remain deposited within”.
Dr. Turner called for a more deeper understanding of the Niger Delta question beyond a mere agitation for resources as “the Niger Delta, beyond being the source of over 80% of government revenue, is a dynamic and vibrant ecosystem which is host to one of the largest mangrove forests in Africa that is being depleted at a dangerous rate.” She decried that fact despite the fact that despite being “the source of the dominant chunk of government revenues and will continue to be for the foreseeable”, the people of the region have “reaped poverty and a degraded environment”.
Dr. Turner concluded her remarks by declaring that “The emergency before us is that of activating the highest office in the land, the Office Of The Citizen, to take its rightful place in driving the conversations on development and a better quality of life even for generations yet unborn. The process of building institutions that will tackle the multiple challenges Oil spills, flooding, poor infrastructure, education and health among others begins with casting our votes and therefore we say to the people: Vote IS A VERY BIG MUST”
SING Director of Media and Publicity, Mohammed Basah, stated that youths had been participating in governance, albeit in the capacity of thugs and enablers of all manner of malpractices in the electoral process, calling for “more meaningful youth participation in the whole electoral and political process”. Mr. Basah stated that the youth should translate their boundless energy and creativity that has seen them excel in diverse fields, into the political arena.
Eminent Lawyer, human rights activisat and member of the Board of Trustees of SING, Barrister Kayode Ajulo, on his part commended the work done by SING management, in ensuring credible elections hold in the Niger Delta. Barr Ajulo called for “intelligent deployment” of security agencies during elections”. Calling on “The people of the Niger Delta must continue to show their courage in participating in their numbers and working with relevant actors to ensure their votes count and reflect their will”. He further requested that the Bayelsa state government commence the process of prosecuting those found to have perpetrated violence in the last Bayelsa state governorship elections within one month, failing which he will approach the court, on behalf of victims, “to compel the state government to prosecute those found wanting.”