By Benjamin Jimmy
Youthfor Change Initiative, YOFCI, a non-governmental organization, has called for partnership with relevant stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State to avert any perceived electoral violence that may disrupt March 18 governorship and house of assembly election.
Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday at Uranus House, Uyo, at the end of a-one day Multi-Stakeholders’ Forum, the Executive Director, Youth for Change Initiative, Amb. Peace Edem, said the briefing was to sensitize the media and the public on the Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation (e-VIP) project being implemented in eight local government areas of the state.
Amb. Edem said the theme of the forum: ” Averting Violence Related Challenges in the Electoral Cycle” became necessary following the highlighted areas as potential hotspots according to the conflict tracker and local newsprint reports regarding March 18 election.
The Executive Director further explained that the rationale behind the intervention was based on data from Partnership Initiative for Niger Delta, PIND’s early warning system and other sources.
” The one day multi-stakeholders’ forum activity with critical stakeholders was designed to share information and best practices, build synergy for constructive engagement to avert electioneering challenges that might result in violence at pre, during and post- election phases”.
He disclosed that prior to the multi-stakeholders’ forum, other activities conducted under the eVIP project included Peace Pact Signing and Communique during the Governorship Debate which was put together by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council.
The YOFCI Executive Director also explained that the organization had inaugurated and trained over 40 Local Government Coordinators and Community Stakeholders Network, CSN, as well as the training of 80 Peace Monitors for the just concluded presidential and National Assembly election and the governorship and state house assembly election scheduled to hold on March 18.
Amb. Edem therefore, appreciated PIND for the collaboration, funding and technical support which he noted had contributed immensely in the success of all the training programmes and hosting of the stakeholders’ forum.
Earlier in a keynote address presented by Barr. Mfon Edemekong on the topic: ” Averting Electoral Violence Challenges: The Role of Critical Stakeholders in Akwa Ibom State” , the resource person listed inflammatory language, exploitation of ethno-religious fault lines, structural weakness of institutions, poor management of electoral process and the lack of internal democracy as some of the triggers of electoral violence.
The Chairperson Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, Uyo branch however said to avert electoral violence before, during and after polls, stakeholders must be involved in mass mobilisation, strengthening of institutions, effective conflict management and instituting internal democracy in political parties.
The stakeholders’ forum also featured goodwill messages from West African Network for Peace Building, Dr. Harry Udoh, Chairman Akwa Ibom State Civil Society Forum, representatives of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command and ICPC, and other organizations.
There was an interactive session where participants barred their minds on the causes of electoral violence and how peace actors could collaborate to avert them, especially as the March 18 governorship and state house of assembly election comes up in a few days.
Dignitaries who were in attendance include; Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong; Dr. Kufre Effiong; Mrs. Imabong Nsewo and the representatives of some NGOs in the state.