The Canadian Government says it will partner Nigeria to promote credible polls ahead of the 2015 general elections.
President, Parliamentary Centre, Canada, Mr Jean-Paul Ruszkowski, told newsmen in Abuja that the partnership was arrived at after a roundtable with leaders of major political parties on Monday, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
Ruszkowski said that the aim of the meeting with leaders of major political parties was to work out modalities on how to set up a Parliamentary Centre that would enhance the country’s electoral process.
"The purpose of the visit is to learn about how Nigeria is progressing in its democratic practice; how the federal system works and through that process explore, with the help of the party leaders, to understand what the priorities, what will bring all parties together to conduct a project that will be of use to Nigeria.
“Be it in the field of budgetary oversight, in the field public accounts, security, natural resources, whatever sector is identified by the parliamentarians as high priority is welcome.
“We have been to several countries and over the years, we are in the position to help.
“We are just starting and the whole idea is to build confidence between the citizens, and governments and political parties; so when the elections come there will be no doubt about how representative the election will be,” Ruszkowski said.
He said that the Parliamentary Centre worked with legislatures of 31 African countries to “help them better serve their people.”
Also speaking, Presidential Adviser, Inter-Party Affairs, Sen. Ben Ndi Obi, said several meetings with legislative leaders, INEC and the Canadian Parliamentary Centre would be held to map out strategies on improving the country’s electoral process.
“He (Ruszkowski) will be meeting with the Senate President, the Speaker and some leaders of the National Assembly; we had met with the SGF.
“To round off the visit, he will be meeting with Prof. Attahiru Jega all on how to further improve the electoral process of our country.
“We have had a robust discussion with our leaders here on how to build formidable internal democracy in our parties and how the parties can work hand-in-gloves with their legislatures in the National Assembly to make democracy more at home with us.
“I will add that our aim is to have the Canadian Parliamentary Centre be established here in Nigeria and because they have been functional in 31 African countries and in Nigeria, it is not there yet.
“So, we intend that this visit is the beginning of how that centre can be established here in due course,” he said.
He said that Nigeria’s participation in the Parliamentary Centre would enhance capacity-building of parliamentarians, adding that through the establishment of the centre, the country would enjoy better inter-party cooperation.
“I believe that parties must work together; they must interact and share ideas so it is not every time that they are on the pages of the newspapers attacking one another,” he said.
Also speaking, Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Chris Cooter described the meeting as “apt” and in line with the Human Rights Day celebration, on Dec. 10.
“There is an intimate link between respect for human rights and respect for democracy and it is very apt that we are having this meeting,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Parliamentary Centre is a non-profit Canadian organisation that has provided support for parliaments around the world for more than 40 years.
The centre supports three main functions of parliament, namely, lawmaking, oversight and representation.