By Friday Idachaba
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Youth Leaders across the 21 Local Government Area Councils in Kogi have signed a peace pact as the governorship election in the state draws close.
The Peace Pact was signed at a “Political Parties Peace Forum’’ meeting on “Vote, Not Fight: Election No Be War” with APC Youth Leaders Forum on Non-Violent Election in Kogi on Saturday in Lokoja.
The youth leaders promised to desist from negative activities that could disrupt the electoral process before, during and after the governorship election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in collaboration with Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
NAN also reports that the Programme was supported by UKaid, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and 2Baba Foundation.
Mr Ben Aga, the Senior Programme Manager of NDI in his presentation on “Electoral Offences and their Penalties’’ counseled the youth leaders to toll the path of peace or face the wrath of the law.
Aga listed some of the electoral offences and their implications to include forging of PVC cards, wilful removal or destruction of ballot papers or boxes at polling units as well as interference with result sheets.
Others he said were illegal printing or possession of ballot papers, improper use of voter’s cards, vote buying, selling, impersonation of voting and unruly behaviours at political party meetings.
Aga revealed that penalties for the offences as provided in the 2010 Electoral Act as Amended in 2015 carried sentences upon conviction ranging from N50 million to N500,000 and Prison terms ranging from 10 years to 12 months.
Ms. Halima Sadiq, the Acting Executive Director, PIBCID said the organisations would work to create safe spaces for youths participation in politics.
She enjoined the youth leaders to take the message of the meeting back to their respective areas, adding “It is another opportunity to change the narratives of our state.’’
Sadiq, however, appealed to political office seekers, party members and supporters to engage in issue-based campaigns, devoid of hate speeches and spreading of unfounded information that could mar the electoral process.
Mr Ben Ajewole, the Project Officer of PIBCID said the campaign was targeted at youths because they were always at the forefront of electoral violence.
Ajewole said that the campaign would also build their capacity to resist the temptation of being used to perpetrate violence.
Durotifa Olusegun, Kogi West Zonal youth leader speaking on behalf of other youth leaders commended the organisers of the peace forum for the opportunity and pledged that they would desist from illegalities that could disrupt the election.