Sola Ojo, Kaduna

As 22 states, including Kaduna, get ready for rerun constituency elections on January 25, a group of women-led civil society organisations numbering about 20 on Thursday embarked on a road walk to promote peaceful, free and fair elections in Kagarko and Sanga constituencies of the northwestern State.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed all reruns in 22 States for January 25 to control costs after the Election Petition Tribunal sacked some elected lawmakers over election irregularities in the affected States, including the only female lawmaker in the northwest, Mrs Comfort Amwe.

Fielding questions from reporters at the Kaduna State Government House, Lead Conveyner of the women’s walk, Hon Florence D Aya, said that one of the issues of concern for the network was the violent and chaotic nature of the 2019 elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, where lives and property were lost.

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She said: “The network is apprehensive that these events may have a rippling effect on the rerun elections, discouraging voters to turn out en masse to vote, or for unpatriotic elements to cause confusion that may spur discord and dispute.

“Evidence has established the link of electoral violence to a low level of female participation in politics and in other electoral processes.

“As women’s rights advocates working towards getting women more interested in participating in politics and governance, we seek to encourage all eligible voters to go out and cast their votes to reduce voter apathy in the local council as recent trends have shown,” she urged.

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Addressing the women group on behalf of Governor Nasir El-Rufai at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, the Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, assured them of the readiness of the State government to provide adequate security that will guarantee the peaceful, free and fair elections the women yearn for.

According to Aruwan, the interest of the State government was to see that people’s will is upheld during the rerun elections in the two local councils in Kaduna State.

“Since 2015, the Kaduna State Government has been very deliberate about the inclusion of women in the highest echelon of public service and the governance space,” Aruwan said.

“For starters, as you may be aware, our Deputy Governor is the first elected female Deputy Governor in the northwest, a traditionally conservative region.

“As we approach elections in Sanga and Kagarko, we have one thing in mind: that the will of the people will be upheld at the polls and that the process will be conducted and concluded without incident.

“I want to assure you all that lives and property are protected in the course of the elections. We will work tirelessly to nip all threats of violence in the bud and ensure a hitch-free, transparent and successful process,” he promised.

Aruwan, however, appealed to the women, in their capacities as leaders of civil society groups, to assist the state government by stepping up active peace-building efforts to address the spread misinformation that incite distrust and sets the stage for political conflict.

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