The Independent National Electoral Commission over the weekend called the media to work with the commission to ensure a credible free and fair elections in 2019.
The commission made the appeal at the weekend at the opening of a two-day capacity building workshop for journalists held in Abuja. The workshop which is part of the build up to the 2019 general elections was in furtherance of the commission’s commitment towards organizing free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
The workshop which was with support from the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), brought together over 90 of its Press Corps members to be trained on policies, developments and plans for the 2019 elections.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop, Chairman of INEC, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, noted that world over, “the media is a powerful tool for protecting the right of citizens to information, giving voice to the people, providing platforms for diverse opinions and creating conditions for tolerance and understanding.”
He expressed joy that INEC through its robust engagement with the media and other stakeholders, has become one of the most improved organizations in terms of service delivery. His words: “I am proud to say that as a result of our robust and continuous engagement with the media and other stakeholders in the democratic process, INEC is today one of the most improved public service organizations in Nigeria. The trajectory since 2010 shows continuous improvement in service delivery in spite of the challenges we sometimes face from other actors whose roles are not only complimentary but indispensable to the discharge of our mandate.”
The INEC Chairman highlighted some key roles the media is expected to play in entrenching democracy. He said they have a role to play in “educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights; reporting on election campaigns; providing a platform for political parties and candidates to communicate their messages to the electorate; and providing a platform for public feedback, concerns, opinions and needs to political parties and candidates, the Election Management Bodies (EMBs), government and other electoral stakeholders, thus facilitating interactions on governance issues.”
Other roles of the media mentioned by the INEC Chairman include: “allowing political parties and candidates to debate with each other; reporting results and monitoring vote counting; scrutinizing the electoral process itself, including electoral management, in order to evaluate the fairness of the process, its efficiency and its probity; and providing information in manner devoid of inflammatory language, and helping to prevent election-related violence”.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the depth, quality and accuracy in the Press Corps reportage of INEC’s activities will largely depend on the quantum of information at their disposal on the one hand, and how knowledgeable they are about the organization’s processes and procedures on the other.
On the objectives of the capacity building, Oyekanmi said it aims to deepen the Press corps understanding of INEC’s vision, mission and actions; enhance their understanding of the Commission’s processes and procedures with the aim of improving their ability to report on these aspects more accurately; provide them with the opportunity to seek clarification on all issues connected to the electoral system and conduct of elections and ultimately ensure that the general public is well informed about the Commissions activities as well as their rights and obligation as regards to the electoral process .
The Project Coordinator, ECES in his remarks, expressed hope that outcome of the capacity building will would further democratic gains and ensure sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
“ It is my hope that the interactions in this workshop will help achieve its set objectives and be useful in the lead up to the 2019 general elections and participants will be in the potion to provide the general public and critical stakeholders with more objective and fact based information about the Commission’s actions, policies, processes and procedures”, Rudolf said.