…As Arogundade harps on strengthening media capacity
By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is more interested in the credibility of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections rather than their outcome, the Chief Press Secretary to the Commission’s Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi has said.
This is even as he reiterated the Commission’s determination in providing a level playing field for all participants in the elections.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman stated these on Monday at the International Press Centre (IPC) and Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) Webinar.
Oyekanmi insisted that INEC is not interested in the outcome of the elections but the credibility of the process and to ensure that materials get to the polling unit in good time.
According to him, “It is the duty of INEC to provide a level playing field for all. We are not interested in the outcome of the elections but the credibility of the process, to ensure that materials get to the polling unit in good time.
“To be sure, INEC is ready for the election. Indeed, we are determined to conduct the election despite the current difficult circumstances.
“Out of the 14 activities listed in the timetable that we released in February, we have carried out 12. The only two left are the deadline for campaigns – 17th September and the election proper slated for 19th September.
Continuing, the CPS to the INEC Chairman said, “All the logistics needed for the election (Edo) have been taken care of. The non-sensitive materials have been delivered to the 18 local government areas of the state.
“Our Electoral Officers, their Assistants and Supervisory Presiding Officers have been trained.
“Officers nominated by the various security agencies under the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) have also been trained and their actions will be guided by the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty.
“To that extent, regardless of the not-so-pleasant experiences Journalists might have experienced with security agents during elections in the past, they are rest assured of a good experience this time round.
“The new Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic and our Regulations and Guidelines will also apply.
“A portal has been provided on the INEC website for journalists who wish to cover the Edo Governorship election to apply online for accreditation”, he explained.
He added, “On proactive measures taken by the Commission to address security concerns, consultations with the ICCES are on-going. About two weeks ago, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu led a delegation to meet with the revered Oba of Benin to ask him to intervene and appeal to political actors to allow a peaceful election.
The respected Monarch promised to invite them to his palace for interaction and he has already done so.
Plans have also been concluded for all the 14 political parties participating in the election to sign a Peace Accord in the coming days. With all these efforts, it is our hope that the election will be held peacefully”, he said.
Oyekanmi explained that the webinar will draw attention to the very important issues associated with the coverage of the elections, stressing that INEC is ready for the elections and is determined to conduct the elections, despite difficult circumstances they have found themselves.
Speaking on the relationship between security agencies and the media, he assured that the experience, this time around, will be a good one as the grey areas in relation to security agencies has been taken care of.
Oyekanmi appealed to Journalists to be fair and objective in reporting the Edo and Ondo elections, as what they report will have effect on the conduct of elections and the democratic process in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Executive Director of International Press Centre (IPC), Mr Lanre Arogundade explained that the objectives of the webinar were “to strengthen the capacity of the media to engage in the professional, ethical, issue-oriented, gender-sensitive, inclusive sensitive and conflict sensitive reporting of the electoral processes and elections.”
Arogundade stated that his organisation, few weeks ago, organised webinar training for journalists in Edo and Ondo States on issue-based and ethical/professional reporting of the governorships elections in the two states.
He said, “we have chosen to organise this one with a specific focus on the imperative of safety consciousness and conflict sensitivity in media coverage of the two elections because of the prevailing circumstances in the two states.
“In the area of safety, we are looking at how journalists could avoid getting in harm’s way in the course of their legitimate duties amid the general concern that the elections could turn violent as pockets of violence are already being recorded here and there particularly in Edo State.
“We are also looking at how journalists could ensure their health safety in view of the fact that the two elections are taking place under the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the area of conflict sensitivity, we are looking at how journalists could contribute to the peaceful conduct of the elections by embracing the principles and guidelines of conflict-sensitive journalism,” he explained.
The webinar had the theme: “Edo/Ondo Elections: The imperative of Safety Consciousness and Conflict Sensitivity in Media Coverage and Reportage”.