The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday said it was committed to the credible electoral process in the upcoming forthcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, made this known at a webinar on Edo/Ondo Elections organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) and the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN).
The theme of the webinar was “Edo/Ondo Elections: The imperative of Safety Consciousness and Conflict Sensitivity in Media Coverage and Reportage”.
Oyekanmi said that the commission was committed to providing a level playing field for all candidates and parties.
“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 on a good time.”
Oyekanmi appealed to journalists to be fair and objective in reporting the Edo and Ondo elections, adding that in spite of the utterances of political actors in Edo and the challenges, INEC was ready for a credible poll.
He said that the commission had taken proactive measures to address security concerns.
“INEC is determined to conduct the election despite the current difficult circumstances.
“Out of the 14 activities listed in the timetable released in February, we have carried out 12.
“The only two left are the deadline for campaigns slated for Sept. 17 and the election proper slated for Sept. 19.
“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,” he said.
Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director of ICP, said the key objectives of the webinar were to strengthen the capacity of the media to engage professional, ethical, issue-oriented, gender-sensitive issues.
Arogundade said it was also to improve their capacity on inclusive sensitive and conflict-sensitive reporting of the electoral processes and elections.
Arogundade said the webinar was organised 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.
“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.
Arogundade urged journalists in the two states and elsewhere to read and digest the Resource Manual on Elections and Democratic Accountability and the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage.
“Both publications actually have chapters or sections that deal extensively with details of how journalists could be conflict-sensitive, avoid hate speech and be personal-safety-sensitive in the coverage and reportage of elections,” he said.
He reminded journalists that their main duty during elections was to relay the information that citizens would require to make informed choices.
“It is a duty we must not abdicate but which we have to undertake with the utmost sense of professional responsibility so as to set the appropriate pubic interest agenda as far as elections in Edo and Ondo states are concerned,” he said.