The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned media practitioners, accredited electoral observers and social media users against disseminating results of the forthcoming general elections not endorsed by the INEC Returning Officer.
Speaking at Zonal sensitization forum for the media on the 2019 general elections held in Awka, the Anambra State capital on Friday, the INEC National Commissioner, Barr. Festus Okoye, noted that announcing election results were legally reserved for the returning officer.
According to Okoye, section 123 (4) of the electoral act 2010 (as amended) states that any person who announces or publishes an election result knowing same to be false or which is at variance with the signed certificate of return commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 36 months imprisonment.
He called on the media practitioners to properly study constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended and electoral acts and apply them accordingly in their reportage to avoid misinforming the public or society, who solely rely on the media for information.
“The constitution is the fundamental law of the land and all other laws are dependent and flows from its provisions. Electoral acts set out the procedure and processes for the conduct of elections in Nigeria and the third are the regulations and guidelines as well as the manuals issued by the INEC for the conduct of elections. Media managers must have good knowledge of the dynamics and nuances of the electoral processes. Media manager that does not have such knowledge is a danger to the electoral process and a danger to democracy,” he maintained.
He further warned media organisations and observers against violating the secrecy of the vote by attempting to record how a voter is voting or how the voter has voted even though they were allowed to polling units, collation centres and distribution centres.
The National Commissioner, while soliciting for symbiotic relationship with the media for successful general election, assured that the commission was determined to conduct credible elections that meets international standards.
The INEC National Commissioner further explained that the commission was not going to relent on arresting anyone caught going into the polling cubicle with a camera phone, because according to him, the act was discovered to aide vote selling and vote buying.
Speaking on INEC and Voters Education, Mr Victor Aluko, while stressing that men constitute highest numbers of registered voters in the country with women trailing behind, urged eligible voters to obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) or risk not been allowed to vote at the election.
Earlier, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Anambra, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, represented by the state commission’s Administrative Secretary, Mr Charles Ibanaga, enjoined social media users to be factual and objective in their political reportage and do away with fake news.
Orji said the event was apt since the election is near and media is a critical and needed to deliver free, fair and credible election.