THE chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmud Yakubu, has warned incumbent public office holders against using their power to restrain opposition parties from accessing public facilities as campaign activities for the 2023 election commence on Wednesday.
Yakubu said this while speaking today at a sensitisation forum for broadcasters and stakeholders organised by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which held at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
“In the course of our numerous interactions with political parties over the years, many have complained about the denial of access to public facilities for meetings and rallies, exorbitant charges for signages and billboards, and equal access to State media.
“Using the power of incumbency to deny opposition parties access to public facilities is illegal,” he said.
Citing some subsections of Section 95 of the Electoral Act, Yakubu noted that state apparatus, including the media, should not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.
He urged the media to ensure equal access and visibility to all political parties, adding that failure to do so attracts sanction under the Electoral Act.
“As campaigns start, the media has a huge responsibility. We have all been talking about issue-based campaigns. I believe that the media has a critical role to play in this respect. Equitable access to the media for all political parties and candidates is essential to the promotion of issue-based campaigns. By doing so, the media will also steer the discussion and engage the candidates away from the mundane to the critical issues that matter to citizens. Consequently, the public will be in a better position to make informed decisions on Election Day,” he said.
He urged the media organisations to ensure neutrality and ensure that they fact-check stories before publishing.
He enjoined the organisations and professionals to continue to abide by journalism ethics anchored on the law, the regulations and guidelines published by INEC and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Code.
“I wish to assure you that we will continue to engage with the NBC and broadcast stations. We will, as always, continue to provide you with the necessary information to make your work of informing and educating citizens easier. I also wish to reiterate our commitment to the nation that the Commission will do everything within its power to ensure that the 20223 General Election is free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and verifiable,” he added.
Yakubu further warned political parties against usage of hate speeches that could elicit physical attacks, disruption of election materials and other forms of violence.
He reiterated the commitment of th.e commission towards ensuring that the forthcoming 2023 General Election is free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and verifiable.
Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via email@example.com and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.