…Affirm Election Will be Free, Fair, Impartial …Applaud Media Professionals for Immense Assistance As part of effort to guarantee a free, fair and impartial poll, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured that security officials to be deployed to man the polling centres during the September 19, 2020 Edo Governorship Elections, will be strictly
…Affirm Election Will be Free, Fair, Impartial
…Applaud Media Professionals for Immense Assistance
As part of effort to guarantee a free, fair and impartial poll, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured that security officials to be deployed to man the polling centres during the September 19, 2020 Edo Governorship Elections, will be strictly guided by their rules of engagement. The Commission also affirm that Journalists covering the election will enjoy better treatment from security officials unlike the very unsavoury deal of the past.
“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 electoral body says.
Speaking during a webinar on “Edo/Ondo Elections: The Imperative of Safety Consciousness and Conflict Sensitivity in Media Coverage and Reportage” on Monday, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi says, the Commission is ready for the hotly contested election in which the incumbent Governor and Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Godwin Obaseki is pitched against the Candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr Osagie Ize Iyamu, as the two leading contestants.
“All the logistics needed for the election 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,” he said at the well attended webinar, organised by the International Press Centre (IPC), in partnership with the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals (ACSPN).
Mr Oyekanmi added: “As we are all aware, the Edo Governorship Election is exactly 12 days away, while the Ondo Governorship election is only 33 days away. The Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for both elections on 6th February this year, and now, both elections are upon us.”
“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,” he said, regarding the time table of the Edo election.
Expressing the profound gratitude of the Commission to the organisers of the webinar, Oyekanmi particularly showered encomiums on the IPC, which “has over the years dedicated itself to building media capacities, covering several thematic areas including Elections, Democracy and Good Governance, which falls directly under INEC’s sphere.”
“The Commission is also profoundly grateful to media professionals, your good selves, for the immeasurable assistance you have offered us in the course of our work. I wonder what we could have done without you. As expected, we accommodate constructive media criticism from time to time with grace.
“But more importantly, journalists all over the country through their print, broadcast and online platforms have helped the Commission in various ways, including emphasizing why free, fair and credible elections are very important to the sustenance of democracy,” he said.
Oyekanmi reveals that, “The new Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic and our Regulations and Guidelines will also apply”, adding that 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 however expressed concerns about the drumbeats of war by political actors in Edo state. “As we approach the Edo Governorship election, it is clear that the good people of the state and Nigerians as a whole are very concerned about what will happen on election day. We have all been hearing the loud drumbeats of war from political actors. There have been accusations and counter accusations. Just like everybody else, the Commission is deeply concerned.
“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 being 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,” Mr Oyekanmi said.
IPC Executive Director, Mr Lanre Arogundade explains that the webinar was organised “under the overarching framework of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN), the component 4b: Support to Media, of which IPC has been implementing since the past three years.”
According to him, “The key objectives are 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.
“Pursuant to the objectives, we’ve held series of activities including trainings for journalists and publication of resource manuals prior to the 2019 elections. The engagements with the media have also continued post the general elections and that was why few weeks ago, we organised separate training webinars for journalists in Edo and Ondo States on issue-focused and ethical/professional reporting of the Governorships elections in the two states on September 19 and October 10, respectively.
“But 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 said.
Papers presented at the webinar, moderated by Mrs funke Treasure-Durodola, a former director of programmes at the Radio Nigeria, include “Situational Scan on Journalists’ Safety Issues in Nigeria: What Journalists in Edo/Ondo Should Know” by Mrs. Melody Lawal, IPC Programme Officer (Safety of Journalists). Others are “Election Coverage Under Covid-19 Rules: Addressing Issues of Journalists’ Personal Safety” by Dr. Clinton Okonye, a medical doctor at Caleb University, Imota, Ikorodu and “Electoral Conflict and Media Coverage: The Need for Conflict Sensitive Reporting in Edo/Ondo Elections” by Dr. Ruqqayah Aliyu of the Bayero University, Kano.
Newly elected President ACSPN, Prof Umaru Parte, the ACSPN General Secretary and Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie and the Executive Director, Institute of Media Studies (IMS), Dr Akin Akingbulu, were some of the distinguished guests who graced the webinar, which elicited very high attendance by journalists across the country.