INEC laments increasing fake news, commends NUJ for being bulwark against surge

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The Independent National Electoral Commission has decried the increasing pace of fake news that has taken over the information space of the country even as it commended the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists for being the bulwark against the surge.

Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu while briefing the media during the first quarter meeting with media executives at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on Thursday, said fake news has taken over the age of information technology.

According to him, “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 drawn 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.”

He said the Commission has maintained the tradition of regular consultations with stakeholders which is critical to elections and electoral activities, adding, “I am glad to note that working together, we have sustained the consultative engagements arising from which important suggestions and recommendations have been made for the improvement of the electoral process in Nigeria.

“As you are aware, the mandate of the Commission is to organise, supervise and conduct elections in addition to other electoral activities. This is an extensive responsibility which involves seven different types of elections: general elections, bye-elections, off-cycle elections, supplementary elections, re-run elections, referendum and recall.

“Only last month, the Commission conducted 48 elections made up of 9 by-elections and 39 re-run elections in 26 States of the Federation involving three Senatorial Districts, 17 Federal Constituencies and 28 State Constituencies spread across 8,934 Polling Units in 575 Wards located in 80 Local Government Areas with a total of 4,904,627 registered voters. I have said repeatedly that there is no election season in Nigeria any longer. Elections are held regularly and all-year round between one general election and another.”

Yakubu also said that instructively, even today’s meeting is coming in the middle of increased activities for the forthcoming off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.

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

He noted that the commission has just six months until the Edo State Governorship election and only eight months before the Ondo State Governorship election.

The INEC boss disclosed that 18 Political Parties conducted their primaries monitored by the Commission and going by the provision of the Timetable for the election, Political Parties have 20 days from 4th March to upload the list and personal particulars of their candidates to our dedicated web portal.

He said, “As of this morning, 10 parties have done so. We expect the other Parties to comply before the deadline of 6pm on Sunday 24th March when the portal automatically shuts down. A week later on 31st March, 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, he said, “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. I urge media organisations to engage with Political Parties as well as their aspirants and report on the primaries with the same diligence and depth you report on the main election conducted by INEC. Doing so will go a long way to strengthen our democracy since only the products of the party primaries are ultimately placed on the ballot paper for citizens to vote for in the main election. Party primaries are as important as the main election conducted by INEC.”

In his response, the President of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo commended the unwavering commitment of the Independent National Electoral Commission to upholding the highest standards of electoral integrity and transparency saying, “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.”

He stressed the need to uphold free, fair and credible elections as the two off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states are very fast approaching.

“As we stand on the cusp of off-season elections, particularly in Edo and Ondo states later this year, it is imperative that we underscore the vital importance of free, fair, and credible elections in the advancement of our democratic governance. Elections serve as the cornerstone of our democracy, providing the mechanism through which citizens exercise their fundamental right to choose their representatives and chart the course of their collective future.

“The conduct of credible elections not only upholds the principles of democracy but also fosters national unity, stability, and progress. It reinforces the legitimacy of our democratic institutions and reaffirms the people’s trust in the electoral process. Therefore, the responsibility entrusted to INEC to conduct elections with integrity and impartiality cannot be overstated,” he said.

He urged the commission and the media to recommit themselves to the noble ideals of democracy, accountability, and civic responsibility and 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,” he said.