CIVIL society organisations, Tap Initiative, and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make a strong commitment to conducting elections that are free, fair, and credible at the off-cycle governorship elections slated for Saturday, November 11, in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states.
In a statement released on Thursday, November 9, the executive director of Tap Initiative, Mbaseki Obono, demanded that the result sheets from every nook and cranny of local government areas (LGAs) bear the signature of the INEC Chairman, countersigned by electoral officers from each LGA and overseen by the resident electoral commissioners.
He urged INEC to collaborate with security agencies to implement security measures that prevent violence and intimidation, thereby strengthening citizens’ right to vote without fear.
Obono further advised INEC to launch an investigation into the allegations against the current resident electoral commissioner in Imo State, Sylvia Agu, a professor, which he said cast shadows on impartiality in the state election.
“We invoke INEC’s sacred duty to launch a comprehensive investigation into these allegations. If substantiated, we implore INEC to consider the withdrawal of the current resident electoral commissioner, a necessary step to restore the integrity of the electoral process,” he stated.
He expressed optimism that the elections would mark a turning point in restoring public trust in the electoral system.
Obono also encouraged other civil society groups to urge INEC to address other critical issues on the electoral system and make the commission uphold the principles of electoral integrity and credibility during the off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states.
Similarly, on Friday, November 10, the Media Rights Agency, in a statement it issued in Lagos state, called on the federal and state governments, law enforcement, and security agencies to take adequate measures to protect journalists and other media workers during the off-cycle elections.
It said the role of media workers in providing information about the electoral process was critical to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections.
The MRA also urged journalists to be safety conscious and to utilise the existing hotlines in reporting any threat or attack that they might experience throughout the process.
It said its existing hotline, established ahead of the 2023 general elections, in February and March, was available to journalists who might face challenges, including harassment, intimidation, or violence while carrying out their professional duties.
According to the organisation, the hotline is available to journalists and other media workers seeking assistance through regular calls, WhatsApp calls, or texting and can be utilised by those who are under threat, attacked, or harmed in the course or due to their work as media professionals.
The MRA said if the concerned people use the hotline to report any issue, it would be able to document them and render a range of support services.
“Given the pattern of heightened attacks on journalists and the media during previous elections, including the recent 2023 general elections, as well as the tense political climate in the three states in the lead-up to the elections, it is imperative that measures are taken to ensure general security during the elections and provide adequate protection for journalists covering the elections.”