2023: My goal is electoral justice ― INEC boss
•Cautions against divisive campaigns
Ahead of the general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it was determined to ensure electoral justice where every Nigerian feel fulfilled at the end of the electoral process.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu made the declaration on Monday in Lagos in his opening remarks at a two-day capacity-building workshop for INEC press corps members on critical issues in the Electoral Act, 2022 and the commission’s processes, innovations, preparations for the 2023 General Election.
Represented by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, Yakubu noted that INEC’s fidelity to the credibility of the process informed its commitment to clean Voter registration and deployment of modern technology to enhance transparency in the electoral process.
He said:” The commission is conscious that a credible voter register is a basic requirement for the conduct of a credible election. We have therefore devoted time and energy to cleaning up the voter register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).
“This process is almost finalized and the commission will engage with stakeholders relating to its findings before displaying the register for claims and objections as required by law. Furthermore, the commission is working out a protocol for seamless collection of Permanent Voters Cards(PVC) by valid registrants.
“I want to assure Nigerians that the commission will deploy and continue to deploy appropriate technology for the conduct of elections. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) will be deployed for the conduct of the 2023 general election. We will continue to use technology to improve and enhance the credibility of elections in Nigeria. Our goal is electoral justice where every Nigerian will experience electoral fulfilment. ”
Yakubu told journalists and INEC National commissioners that the commission “has undertaken 8 out of the 14 items on the calendar and schedule of activities for the 2023 General Election.”
He restated the commission’s stance to adhere to set timelines in carrying out its activities while he equally cautioned against divisive language in the course of campaign activities by candidates.
“On 20th September 2022, the commission released the final list of candidates nominated for National Elections, Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, and Senatorial and House of Representative Candidates.
“On 4th October 2022, the commission will release the final list of candidates standing nominated in relation to state elections, Governorship, Deputy Governorship and State Assemblies. On 28th September 2022 Presidential and National Assembly campaigns will start while that of Governorship and State Assembly candidates will start on 12th October 2022. The commission will continue to adhere to set timelines in carrying out its activities.
“We urge all the 18 registered political parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act for the proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.
“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns. Let me also remind the media of their constitutional and legal obligations.
State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election. In other words, equal coverage and visibility shall be allotted to all political parties by all public print and electronic media organisations. The same applies in equal measure to privately owned media organizations subject to payment of appropriate fees. ”
Earlier in his presentation, Lagos Resident Electoral Commissioner, Segun Agbaje, appealed to the media to insulate itself from partisanship in order to live up to its role as an unbiased umpire in the polity.
“Elections are great events in the lives of Nigerians. It is so for different reasons depending on religion, ethnicity, personal and group ambitions and geography.
“Within the context of elections for the purpose of this workshop three parties are to be identified- the electorate (Voters), the contestants (politicians) and the umpire (INEC), situating the roles of media professionals to ensure that the three parties in an election play their respective roles in a manner that will guarantee credible, transparent, free, fair and violence-free elections acceptable to the parties has become very imperative when current happenings in the political landscape are juxtaposed with past experience.
“It, therefore, follows for a watchdog to be effective in its duty; it must clean itself, shun corruption and avoid any form of smear and smudge.
“This is probably the first role the media must play to guarantee Nigerians free and fair elections in the 2023 general election. The media must first do soul searching to be sure it does not constitute itself as an appendage of a political party or worse still, usurp the functions of the electorate. In other words, the media in its pursuit to ensure that the rule of law prevails must not in itself become lawless. In both developing and developed societies, the media has the power to impose its decisions, views and opinions on the rest of the society.
“The media dictates the public taste, decides what the public should know, how and when it should be known and decides what is fair enough for public consumption.
“Also, it is the role of the media to ensure that the principles of fairness and balance in the coverage of political party campaigns and activities are observed. This should include distinguishing between government activities in which incumbent public office holders feature an election campaign by such office holders.
“In carrying out its primary responsibilities of informing, educating and enlightening members of the public about democratic principles, the media reserves the right to dispense its wisdom as it deems fit, they must, however, live up to their responsibility by avoiding a sensational or divisive approach in their coverage of political issues.”
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