THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Thursday, reviewed the 2019 general election with various media practitioners, as part of a series where it’s engaging with various stakeholders.
The consultative meeting, held in Abuja, was put in place so that journalists may share their experience, observations, and recommendations on all aspects of the election with the commission.
These aspects, INEC chairman Mahmud Yakubu said in his opening address, include: “logistics, security … coverage of elections, adequacy and effectiveness of public enlightenment done by the commission, access to information by the media, issues of misinformation, fake news, hate speech, and more”.
He said similar stakeholder meetings have been held with political party leaders, security agencies, and civil society groups.
“When we encountered challenges in the course of preparations for the general election, you were the first to be informed, given that the media is a gateway for information dissemination to citizens,” Yakubu said.
“I must place on record the commission’s appreciation of your support during the daily briefings following the painful but necessary decision to reschedule the general election.
“The live coverage on television, radio, online newspapers, and live streaming on other platforms free of charge—the commission did not pay for this, as well the subsequent incisive analyses of issues in newspapers and other platforms were no doubt another demonstration that for the media the nation comes above all else.”
In reaction to a question from The ICIR about the controversial INEC central server, Yakubu declined to comment, citing that the matter is sub judice (under judicial consideration). He, however, added that the statement suggesting that the server does not exist wasn’t absolute, but was made within a context.
The ICIR asked to know specifically whether INEC denies the existence of the server, despite the budgetary allocation for server, and the statements made by various INEC senior officials indicating that the server exists.
And Yakubu responded this way: “We can’t comment on live matters in court. There are comments made in the context of litigation because the matter is in court. You have statements on oath by the petitioner, you have statements on oath by respondents, please read these documents carefully and they are public documents. Then you will probably understand the context in which some response was made. To repeat what I said, we can’t comment on the matter that is before the court.”
Festus Okoye, chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), while addressing participants said the commission will continue to give information to the media but will ensure to abide by the constitution and its legal mandate.
“The commission being a creation of the law will continue to be circumspect in commenting on or engaging in public debate or legal discourse on issues and matters that have been submitted to the adjudicatory purview of the court and the election petitions tribunal,” he noted.
Okoye also assured that INEC will continue to comply with pronouncements of court on electoral disputes.
“We will continue to exercise our powers in the overall interest of the electoral system. The guiding principle will remain what is right, what is just, what is constitutional and what is within our constitutional and legal mandate,” he said.
Also at the event were Seray Jah, acting country director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES); Maria-Teresa Mauro, director of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES); and Christopher Isiguzo, president of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).