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Report On Party Primaries With Same Depth Accorded INEC Elections, Yakubu Urges Media

Media Executives at the Commission's first consultative meeting with the media, held at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja on 21st March 2024. PHOTO: TAIWO MAKANJUOLA

By Dominic James and Nathaniel Gana

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has tasked the media to report on primaries conducted by political parties with the same depth with which they focus on elections conducted by the Commission.

Describing party primaries as important as the main elections conducted by INEC, he said that doing so would go a long way in strengthening Nigeria’s democracy, since only the products of party primaries were ultimately placed on the ballot paper for citizens to vote in main elections.

Prof. Yakubu, who spoke at the Commission’s first consultative meeting with the media, held at the INEC headquarters Abuja on 21st March 2024, also urged the fourth estate of the realm to continue to be a bulwark against fake news and misleading narratives about the Commission and its activities.

He said: “A very important reality in today’s age of information technology is the spread of fake news and misinformation instantly and on a global scale. As I said on many occasions, INEC does not believe in censorship. The best antidote to fake news is greater openness and transparency.

“It is in furtherance of this policy that the Commission interfaces regularly with stakeholders through our regular consultative meetings. We appreciate our partnership with the media and I want to reassure you that INEC will continue to work closely with you. We welcome your reports, commentaries and analyses on elections in particular and electoral activities in general.

“More specifically, some of the innovations introduced by the Commission to improve service delivery to the electorate, ensure the safety and security of journalists and grant them unimpeded access to various locations during elections and electoral activities draw from your reports as well as the suggestions and recommendations made during our quarterly meetings. I urge you to continue to be a bulwark against fake news and misleading narratives about the Commission and its activities.”

Prof Yakubu also explained the Commission’s preparations for the impending two off season governorship elections taking place later this year and the recently concluded polls. He told his audience that only last month, the Commission conducted 48 elections made up of nine bye-elections and 39 re-run elections in 26 States, involving three Senatorial Districts, 17 Federal Constituencies and 28 State Constituences, spread across 8,934 Polling Units located in 80 Local Government Areas with 4,904,627 registered voters.

He noted that by the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released in September last year, the Edo State Governorship election will hold on Saturday 21st September 2024 while that of Ondo State is scheduled for Saturday 16th November 2024.

His words: “For Edo State, 18 Political Parties conducted their primaries monitored by the Commission. Going by the provision of the Timetable for the election, Political Parties have 20 days from 4th March 2024 to upload the list and personal particulars of their candidates to our dedicated web portal. As at this morning (21st March), 10 Parties have done so. We expect the other Parties to comply before the deadline of 6pm on Sunday 24th March 2024 when the portal automatically shuts down. A week later on 31st March 2024, the Commission will publish the personal particulars of the candidates (Form EC9) as required by law. I urge the media and the general public, particularly registered voters in Edo State, to scrutinise the bio-data and credentials of the candidates which is the essence of the publication as provided by law.

“Turning to Ondo State, Political Parties will commence their primaries for the Governorship election in the next two weeks. At the moment, 17 out of 19 Parties have indicated interest in participating in the election.”

In his response, President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo, commended the unwavering commitment of INEC to upholding the highest standards of electoral integrity and transparency. He further commended the Commission for sustaining the quarterly engagement with the media. He noted that the platform provides an invaluable opportunity for dialogue. He called for more collaboration towards ensuring that the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections meet the expectations of all stakeholders.

He said: “your dedication to ensuring that every vote counts and every voice is heard is commendable and serves as a beacon of hope for our democracy. Let us work together tirelessly to ensure that the forthcoming elections in Edo and Ondo states, as well as future elections, are conducted with the highest standards of integrity, fairness, and transparency.

“Together, let us uphold the sanctity of the ballot box and safeguard the democratic aspirations of our nation. It is hoped that our collective efforts would pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for all Nigerians.”