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Published On: Tue, Jul 30th, 2019

2019 polls: Okoye blames counsel for cases struck out by courts

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…Berates staff for not being abreast of happenings

By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja

A National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye has blamed the striking out in courts of some suits instituted by the commission on laziness on the part of some lawyers handling them.
Okoye categorically pointed out that
the courts struck out some of the suits filed INEC because the counsel that filed them did not keep abreast of the law and the fact that the constitution had been amended to provide timelines for the filing and disposal of pre-election matters.
The Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee said this yesterday in his welcome remarks at the opening of a 4-day workshop on media monitoring for some publicity officers of the commission in Abuja.
According to Okoye, “The Courts struck out some of the suits because the Counsel that filed some of them did not keep abreast of the law and the fact that the constitution had been amended to provide timelines for the filing and disposal of pre-election matters.
“The Courts struck out so many pre-election matters on grounds that the said suits are exercise in futility, spent and have become an academic exercise.
“A suit is academic where it is purely theoretical, makes empty sound and, of no practical utilitarian value to the plaintiff even if judgment is given in his favour.
“A suit is academic if it is not related to practical situation of human nature and humanity”, he said.
Okoye, also, berated some staff of the commission for not be abreast of happenings in their environment, noting that some of them have modern communication gadgets in their offices and yet are not interested in them and hardly know how to operate them.
His words, “Some of our staff have modern communication gadgets in their offices and yet are not interested in them and hardly know how to operate them.
“Some of our staff are availed with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission and other Manuals and Frameworks and yet do not make efforts to read and understand these documents.
“Society is dynamic and the laws must change and move with the dynamics of the society”, he said.
The Commission, Okoye however assured, is presently repositioning and repackaging for the challenges ahead.
He stated that INEC is presently harnessing the lessons from the 2019 general election and harvesting positive recommendations aimed at improving subsequent elections.
According to him, “We assure participants and the Nigerian people that the Commission will continue to improve on its processes and procedures.
“We assure the various stakeholders in the electoral process that the Commission will study and analyze all the recommendations made and creatively and positively implement those that can be implemented administratively, while working with relevant stakeholders towards effecting fundamental reforms in the electoral legal framework.
“As some of you are aware, part of the challenges faced by the Commission during the 2019 general election revolves around information management.
“It revolves around strategic communication. It revolved around managing public perception around the processes and procedures of the Commission.
“It revolved around the caliber and knowledge of the staff saddled with managing its image and communicating to and with the public.
“It revolved around making information available to the media in real time to avoid speculation, rumor mongering and fake news.
“The Commission has consistently tried its best to provide information to the media. It has been upfront in media appearances and in some instances providing education on novel and unclear areas of the electoral process. “This demands that the spokespersons of the Commission must be conversant with the happening in the Commission. They must be conversant with its laws and procedures.
“They must be conversant with its processes and procedures. They must listen to the radio and the television. They must read newspapers of different qualities and varieties.
“They must access the social media platforms and understand the thinking of the different segments of the populace and their views about the electoral process. They must decipher manipulated information from outright fake news.
“They must understand when information is skewed and slanted to appeal to a constituency or achieve a particular result or outcome. They must know when a report or opinion is based on outright ignorance.
“These must then be turned into actionable recommendations for better image management and policy formulation”, he said.
Okoye expressed the firm belief that the 4-day training will equip and empower commission’s media officers with modern skills of monitoring the activities of the media, to keep the Commission abreast of issues as they break or begin to trend especially on the social media.
“We believe that this is the way to go in being proactive in information driven society where political considerations and partisan posturing sometimes play a huge role in the dissemination of fake news, misinformation and dis-information”, he said.
He reasoned that media monitoring will help the staff to appreciate what is being said about INEC and where the commission needs to respond and timely too.
His words, “The establishment of a media monitoring center within the Commission is a step in the right direction. It is important for the Commission as a public trust to understand what the mainstream and the social media are doing and saying. “The media shapes, molds and defines the direction of public opinion in given circumstances. As a Commission that does not own radio and television stations, the Commission relies on the media to get its messages across to the Nigerian people.
“It is important for us to know whether our messages as a Commission gets to the Nigerian people and in what form the message gets to them.
“It is important for us to understand the mood of the nation and the interpretation given to the actions and inactions of the Commission.
“It is important for the Commission to use the instrumentality of the media to formulate policies, reshape policies and mold public opinion in given circumstances”, it said.
The Commission lauded the collaborative partnership existing between it and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) targeted at “strengthening the processes of the Commission, promoting Nigeria’s electoral process and deepening our democracy”.

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