November Guber Polls: INEC Insists on Factual Media Reportage 

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With the 11 November 2023 governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa States less than three weeks away, Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has tasked the Media with factual reportage, warning against dissemination of fake news.

READ ALSO: INEC Seeks Intense Collaboration with Media to Curb Fake News 

According to the INEC, ninety-four (94) media organizations, deploying 1,255 personnel, have been accredited for the elections; and their identification cards will be ready for collection in the coming days.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while briefing media executives and journalists about its preparations so far, also emphasized that the security and safety of journalists, in all places they will cover, would be of top priority to the commission:

I wish to remind all media organizations to strictly adhere to the ethics of your profession. We welcome reports on the election. At the same time, you should form a bulwark against fake news.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the commission does not believe in censorship. We have said repeatedly that the best antidote to fake news is greater openness and regular and consistent engagement with stakeholders. We will continue to work together in this regard.”

 

Security Agencies

As regards the safety of journalists, Prof. Mahmood highlighted the commission’s engagement with security agencies:

“In previous elections, media organizations have expressed concern about the safety of journalists and technical staff and protection of the equipment you deploy on Election Day.

“Similarly, you have on several occasions urged the commission to intercede with the security agencies to grant you unimpeded access to polling and collation locations.”

The INEC chairman said he would raise the possibility of setting up a command centre made up of all security agencies and staff of the commission.

There would also be dedicated numbers which would be made available to members of the public to call and report any infractions and for journalists to report any threats to their safety.

In addition, the commission will make available life jackets as protective gears for journalists covering the riverine areas when they travel across rivers.

 

BVAS and IReV

An election officer using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

 

Prof. Mahmood reiterated the commission’s commitment to leveraging technology in the conduct of the 11 November 2023 elections, as they have learned invaluable lessons from the 2023 February and March general elections.

“About two weeks ago, the commission conducted a mock accreditation involving actual voters in designated polling units in the three states. By doing so, we tested the efficacy of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for both biometric authentication of voters and the upload of results to the INEC Result-Viewing Portal (IReV).

“Some of you observed the mock accreditation exercise and viewed the results on the IReV portal.

“We have received no adverse report so far. By this, we are encouraged that the test was successful, and we look forward to improved performance of the BVAS in voter accreditation and result upload in the forthcoming governorship elections and beyond,” said the INEC chairman.

 

Logistics

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the commission would stick to using the services of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), and Marine associations to transport election materials and personnel across the three states.

A division of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).

 

As such, the idea of using the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) has been shelved, as one organization cannot handle the huge logistics arrangement.

Meanwhile, the National Population Commission is working with the staff of the INEC to clean up data thus eliminating deceased voters from the register.

He announced plans to release an election book that would contain all information concerning the elections.

Meanwhile, according to the INEC chairman, there are 11 run-off elections in 11 constituencies to be conducted by the commission across the country.

“We want to be done with the off-cycle elections before we announce the dates for the re-run election,” he disclosed.

 

People Living with Disabilities 

Prof. Cornelius Ajayi, National Commissioner and Chairman of Voter Outreach and Partnerships, explained that people living with disabilities will be voting in the over two thousand, two hundred (2,200) polling units across the three states.

Prof. Ajayi said that in the identified polling units, magnifying glasses, braille, and enlarged posters showing the different stages of voting will be provided to make voting easy for persons with disabilities, while the INEC staff will be on hand to assist people with other disabilities seamlessly cast their ballot.

Dr. Baba Bila, also a national commissioner, said all non-sensitive materials have already been deployed to the states, while sensitive materials will be distributed a few days before the election.

“There are enough ad hoc staff to conduct the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, but the commission is using other options to fill the shortfall in Imo State.

“The mock accreditation of two weeks ago helped the commission to note loopholes, and we have strategized to overcome them,” Dr. Bila added.

READ MORE: INEC Set for November Guber Polls 

INEC 70 Per cent Ready 

Other national commissioners informed the media that they are 70 per cent ready for the elections, as the BVAS devices have been charged and all necessary accessories were available for use.
In addition, all sensitive materials have been tracked to their designated local government areas; deployment of trained personnel has also been concluded while elections would not hold in 40 polling units in the three states due to lack of registered voters.

 

Response

Director (News) of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Ms Hussaina Banshika, responding on behalf of the journalists, expressed delight that the security of journalists on the field was on the priority list of the commission. He promised that the press would collaborate with the INEC to disseminate correct information.

Ms Banshika observed that the spread of fake news was a source of concern to the media industry in Nigeria, noting such engagements with the INEC would serve as the right avenue for the exchange of ideas and elimination of fake or incorrect information.

The November 11 off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa States would be conducted in 56 local government areas,  involving over 5 million voters.

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