With national elections scheduled for February 14, 2015, and state elections to take place a week later on February 28, Nigerians are focused on building consensus among political parties, civil society and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to institutionalize critical reforms that are necessary for peaceful, transparent and free elections.

To discuss needed reforms and concerns over the slow pace of amending the Constitution and Electoral Act and other legal instruments ahead of the elections, stakeholders gathered at the National Stakeholders Forum on Electoral Reform in Abuja on January 29, 2014. The forum was hosted by the Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development (KNCLD) and the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, in partnership with IRI and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

After identifying the challenges facing Nigeria’s political and electoral processes and debating proposals for reform, members of the forum, including representatives from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, INEC, political parties, civil society and professional bodies, reached consensus on 11 key recommendations.

Among the most urgent recommendations contained in the communique was a call for the establishment of an electoral offences commission to prosecute electoral offenders as well as a demand for timely and increased funding of INEC that will enable the commission to carry out its responsibilities effectively and transparently. Participants also recommended strengthening and enforcing internal party democracy structures and campaign finance regulations as critical reforms that would go a long way toward improving the credibility of intra-party elections and the illegal use of money in the electoral process, respectively.

On April 7, 2014, KNCLD, the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, IRI, IFES and the United States Agency for International Development presented the communique to Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan. While making the presentation, Senator Ken Nnamani, chairman of KNCLD and former president of the Nigerian Senate, called the president’s attention to the delay in the electoral reform process and urged him to fully support the implementation of the communique which will help improve the quality of the 2015 elections.

President Jonathan acknowledged the need for reforms and expressed gratitude for the ‘formidable’ recommendations presented to the government. He pledged to work with the government on their adoption and implementation and to ensure that actions are taken in order to have a peaceful and successful election in 2015.

While discussing the recommendation for the establishment of an electoral offences commission, the president was resolute, saying that it must be the role of such a commission to ensure that electoral offenders are punished whether or not elections are annulled. Many of Nigeria’s leading print and electronic media sources reported on the meeting, furthering IRI’s mission of placing electoral reform high on the agenda. IRI and its colleagues from the stakeholder’s forum will also present the recommendations to the leadership of the National Assembly, the judiciary, INEC and political parties.

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