Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Yakubu Mahmood, has urged journalists to always cross check their facts from several channels available to them at the Commission before going to press.
He said because accuracy is one of the hallmarks of professional journalism, it was necessary for the media to ensure its reports are unbiased.
Prof Mahmood also said, “The Commission welcomes and appreciates constructive criticism, which will help us grow since no Election Management Body is perfect.”
Speaking at the 12th all Nigerian Editors’ conference (ANEC) held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, last Friday, the INEC Chairman, represented at the occasion by the Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, noted that the Commission was aware of the unprecedented attention and scrutiny it had gotten from the press following the conduct of recent elections through several articles that had been published or aired on what INEC did or did not do.
The INEC Chairman reiterated the challenges that have hampered the smooth conduct of elections in recent times, which the Commission had constantly, spoken against and tried to mitigate.
“The most daunting problem encountered by the Commission in conducting elections thus far is violence, which manifests in many ways: physical attack (sometimes leading to unfortunate death) on INEC staff (ad-hoc and regular), intimidation, completion of result sheets under duress and sundry electoral malpractices. At times, violence takes the form of attack on our offices, facilities and public institutions used as polling centres,” he said.
He re-affirmed INEC’s willingness and readiness to conduct elections in any part of the country, but stressed that: “the environment has to be conducive for us to perform our duty. Under no circumstance will INEC conduct an election where our permanent and ad-hoc staff, voters, local and international observers, local and international journalists face the imminent danger of being killed or maimed. No election is worth the life of a human being and we take the safety of our staff and all stakeholders very seriously. The Commission will never conduct or conclude any election that has not met the minimum threshold of credibility under our laws.”
He used the opportunity to correct the wrong impression that all recently conducted elections under his watch were inconclusive. He explained that: “over the last eight months, INEC has conducted over 83 re-run elections, 7 by-elections and three end of tenure elections.
“Of these, 58 were successfully concluded, contrary to the insinuation that all our elections have been inconclusive. It is instructive to note that 22 of the remaining inconclusive elections arose from the March 19 elections in Rivers, which all stakeholders agreed were marred by violence, demonstrated by the untimely death of a youth corps member.”
Professor Yakubu further explained that: “We have thus always ended up with inconclusive elections in all the areas where violence took place. In instances where the Commission could not vouch for the credibility of the process or its outcome, elections were either cancelled in the entire constituency, relying on Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), or in selected Polling Units, relying on Section 53 of the Electoral Act (as amended)”.
On the Commission’s plans to consolidate on the gains of the 2015 general elections and improve the electoral process ahead of the 2019 general elections, the INEC Chairman disclosed that: “The Commission is also looking at ways by which election results can be transmitted electronically from the Polling Units to the Collation Centres in the interest of security, sanctity of the ballot, speed and accuracy. Similarly, we have designed a portal from which all registered voters can confirm and verify their registration online ahead of elections.”
The workshop was attended by various Editors from media organizations across the country with the Commission also being represented by the Commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, Deputy Director in Charge of Publicity, Nick Dazang and the Assistant Director of Publicity, Chinwe Ogbuka.