In its effort to ensure the advancement of democracy in Nigeria, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) has set aside the sum £35 million to be spent on its project aimed at strengthening democracy in Nigeria in the next three and half years.
The project tagged ‘Deepening Democracy in Nigeria 2 (DDiN2)’ is an extension of DDiN, which will terminate in 2015. DDiN was conceived in 2009 with a similar budget of £35 million and approved in April 2010 in the run-up to the Nigerian presidential and National Assembly elections in April 2011.
DFID's Permanent Secretary, Mark Lowcock, who was in Nigeria to hold meetings on the review of the organisation's progress in implementing development programmes in the country, disclosed the new commitment on Tuesday in Abuja.
The objective of the programme, according to him, is to build efficient, effective and responsive political, electoral and democratic institutions.
The outputs of DDiN were to ensure credible elections in 2015, better functioning of the National Assembly and strengthening of the capacity and influence of civil society organisations and the media.
It was also to enhance better functioning of political parties and increase women’s participation in politics.
According to Lowcock, "Nigeria matters to the world. Currently, it is in the eyes of the world because of the abducted school girls in Bornor State, who we hope will be rescued soon, but our attention at DFID is on the 2015 elections.
"Nigeria matters to the 170 million people living in it, it matters to Africa and the UK. This global focus on Nigeria represents an important moment for the country. As Africa's biggest democracy, countries look up to Nigeria to lead the continent in many ways, therefore, delivering credible elections in 2015 is a key pillar of that leadership."
He added that: “The programme is working across the electoral cycle to strengthen presidential, national assembly and state elections as well as mitigate the risks of violence," stressing that: "Election on its own does not ensure democratisation."
The permanent secretary noted that the programme was also engaging the national assembly and a broad spectrum of Nigerians, "whilst encouraging a broader and more engaged electorate, particularly women and youth, to make a more informed choice at the ballot box."
In concert with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and private foundations, Lowcock expressed optimism that "we can improve the probability of credible and safe elections n 2015."
He noted that DFID and its partners were worried about the current spate of insecurity and the possibility of more violence, but said: "INEC has a very important role to play to ensure these elections are credible, fair and safe."
Lowcock expressed hope that the elections in Ekiti and Osun State "will demonstrate INEC's successful electoral management, working together with political parties and security agencies, and the potential for peaceful elections to be conducted fairly for credible candidates, with a more engaged electorate, and civil society working together to support the process."