The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has called for greater partnership with media, especially in the implementation of the new electoral law.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Chief Festus Okoye, the INEC Commissioner in Charge of Voter Education, made the call at the Town Hall Meeting /Capacity Building for Editors, organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, in Abuja on Thursday.
Yakubu described the passage of the Electoral Law as timely, saying the media played a proactive role in the success of the passage of the law.
He said INEC was ready to fully implement the Electoral Law for the conduct of credible elections as activities for the February 2023 General Elections had started.
“The entire process towards the electioneering will take place this year towards the February 2023 Elections.
“For instance, INEC cannot register any new political parties 12 months before the elections,” he said.
INEC chairman also said any merger of political parties could not be done nine months to the elections.
He assured that the new electoral law had eliminated all forms of electoral vices such as ballot snatching and double voting, among others.
He called on the media to feel free to approach INEC for credibility of reports to avoid heating the polity.
Yakubu further assured that the commission would always be willing to provide the needed information that would guarantee full implementation of the new Electoral Law.
He therefore challenged the media to study the new Electoral Law to be on the “same page” with INEC.
President of the NGE, Mustapha Issa, in his opening remarks, said the freedom of the media could not be “traded off in whatever political guise”.
Issa said the media should truly and jealously protect “our democracy, which is still the best form of government”.
He said that agenda setting still remained the media’s major focus, adding that the media “is now ready to set agenda for politicians”.
He called on the media to close ranks and refuse politicians antics to divide the society through religious gimmicks and social vices.
Chairman of the town hall meeting, Tony Akiotu, Group Managing Director, DAAR Communications, said the society had not been fair to the media.
Akiotu said the event had provided the opportunity for the media to assess itself.
He called on the media to close ranks and fight against polarisation of the media, while commending its efforts in the society.
Mr David Mark, the Senior Editor, Washington Examiner, stressed the importance of the media in a free society.
He said the freedom of the media was guaranteed in both the American and Nigerian constitutions.
Mark called on the Nigerian media to be professional in ensuring that news sources were jealously guarded.
He however commended the media for peaceful transition of power during the former President Goodluck Jonathan to the present administration.
About 50 media practitioners drawn from the North Central, participated at the town hall meeting.
Personalities such as Ene Obi, Country Director. ActionAid, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi, Head of Department of Department, BAZE University, Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA, and Comrade Okei Lakenfa, a Labour Writer, among others, were speakers at the event.