By Nathaniel Gana
4th June 2020
In compliance with the safety protocols of conducting electoral activities, accreditation of media organisations for the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections slated for 19th September and 10thOctober 2020 will be done online, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
Speaking at the virtual consultative meeting with the media held on 3rd June, Prof Yakubu said the Commission was mindful of the threat posed by the global pandemic, which has necessitated a rethink of many activities taken for granted in the past.
He said the Commission had always accredited media organisations to cover elections and granted unimpeded access to voting locations and collation centres. While he assured the participants that the forthcoming governorship elections as well as many other bye-elections to be held across the country will not be different, he stated that with the new health reality, accreditation of media organisations for the elections will be done online through a dedicated portal.
His words: “this is a very unusual time with serious implications for our electoral process. Let me reassure you that the Commission will continue to adopt and implement appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our electoral activities. We therefore solicit your cooperation and support in disseminating required information that will help to protect the health of voters and all those involved in electoral activities”.
On the Commission’s Policy for conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the INEC Chairman said: “drawing from the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and based on the advisory from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Commission has released a policy document on how electoral activities can proceed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 10-item policy as well as the Voters’ Code of Conduct for the elections drawn from it were discussed at the meeting. In addition, there was a presentation on the modalities for voter education and publicity for the Edo and Ondo State Governorship elections.
Professor Yakubu used the occasion to urge members of the fourth estate of the realm whom he described as critical stakeholders in the electoral process to continue to suggest ways of improving the process.
He said, “as usual, the Commission welcomes your comments and suggestions. As critical stakeholders, you have been involved in reporting and analysing our democracy and electoral process. As citizens, the Commission believes that your opinions and suggestions will be of immense benefit to our electoral activities. The Commission therefore values your contributions to policy formulation and implementation”.
In response, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo commended INEC for deeming it necessary to organize the engagement with the media in the new COVID-19 era. He gave the assurance of the media’s preparedness to give the Commission the necessary support in conducting free, fair, credible and safe elections, even as he called for the necessary support from the Commission to enable journalists carry out their responsibilities.