INEC deserves appreciation —Jega

 28.Aug.2014   Saliu Gbadamosi – Bauchi

CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday, told Nigerians to appreciate the electoral body for what it is doing to entrench a culture of free and fair election in the country, instead of making accusations and counter-accusations against it.

Speaking in Bauchi at a workshop orgainsed by Nigerian Press Council for journalists covering North-East geopolitical zone, with the theme: “Effective Coverage and Reportage of 2015 General Election,” Jega disclosed that INEC was one of the bodies highly misunderstood in the country.

According to Jega, “if there is any commission today in Nigeria that is highly misunderstood, it is INEC and we need to go beyond misunderstanding to the level of appreciation. We see people talked about Ekiti and Osun states’ elections as if we have never conducted election as good as those ones.”

Represented by Director of Voter Education in INEC, Alhaji Mohammed Garba, Jega declared that it was not as if the electoral umpire did anything different from what it had done in previous elections in the country, but the heavy presence of security personnel made the people respect the system more than before.

According to him, instead of everyone pointing fingers at INEC, Nigerians ought to support the body, since the issue of election was everyone’s business, adding that, “election is everybody’s business and if we don’t see it that way, we will come to see it through water, roads and any other means of livelihood. The elite must come to the aide of INEC by partnering with it, believing that it is your own project and without you, we cannot succeed.”

While challenging Nigerians to be part of election process, irrespective of their political affiliation, Professor Jega stated being part of the process was the only way Nigerians could effect the kind of changes they wanted in the country.

In his address on the occasion, the acting Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Press Council, Mr Nnamdi Njemanze, challenged the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Guilds of Editors, government and security operatives to do everything possible to protect the lives of journalists during elections, especially in the troubled North-East zone of the country.

He challenged journalists to equip themselves with the Electoral Act and the ethics of the journalism profession to effectively educate the electorate on things that were expected of them during campaigns, elections and holding government officials accountable to them.

Also speaking, chairman, Bauchi State council of NUJ, Garba Mohammed Dahiru, enjoined journalists to work hard, with a view to ensuring the sustainability of Nigeria’s nascent democracy which they fought for.

According to Dahiru, the Nigerian constitution had empowered the media to be a watchdog by monitoring government’s programmes, policies and reporting same to the masses, in order for them (the masses) to take decisions on the government.

He, however, appealed to INEC, international agencies, including UNICEF, government at all levels, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), peace and conflict resolution experts and other key stakeholders to train journalists, particularly those operating in the North-East geopolitical zone on how to report elections in view of the security challenges in the zone.