The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it cannot expose some of the sensitive materials it used in the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
INEC’s statement is coming at a time the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari had gone to court seeking to inspect materials used in the election.
But INEC, while giving reasons why it was difficult for any party or candidate to inspect some sensitive materials used in the conduct of the general elections, attributed it to its policy.
“Despite our policy of transparency, the commission cannot expose some of the sensitive materials used in the 2019 general elections,” INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said during the 2019 Press Freedom Award held on Monday night in Abuja.
Represented by INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr Festus Okoye, the commission stated that some sensitive materials cannot be exposed.
He called on Nigerians to stop blaming INEC for the registration of many political parties and explained that the only stringent condition for the registration of political parties in the country is having an office in any part of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Having a multiparty democracy is not akin to having 1,000 political parties that espouse almost the same ideology,” Yakubu said, even as he noted that under the extant law, de-registered political parties can easily reapply for registration under a new name since they already have offices in the FCT.
“We have had instances where some people blame INEC for registering too many parties. The truth of the matter is that the registration of political parties is a function of the Constitution framework.
“The condition which a political party must meet in order to be registered is embedded in the law and the only condition which is the Constitution framework is that such an association must have an office in the FCT.
“It is immaterial whether the office is located in Maitama; it is immaterial if the office is located in Gwagwalada; it is immaterial whether the office is located in Kuje, so long as the association has an office in the Federal Capital Territory, it suffices; every other thing is paper work. “
“And the law also said that if the commission does not register the party within 30 days and does not give reasons for its non-registration, that the association becomes a political party automatically.
“As Nigerians and as journalists, we need a national conversation on whether we need to improve on the regime of political parties registration or whether we need the number of political parties we have as at today. “
“Having a multiparty democracy is not akin to having 1000 political parties that espouse almost the same ideology. So we need a national conversation,” he said..
The INEC chairman also clarified on the differences between the commission and the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) stating that many people in the past had used the two interchangeably, confusing their roles.
“The media must therefore be abreast and knowledgeable of the statutory role of INEC and SIEC. Sometimes when people are reporting about SIEC, they report as if the are reporting the INEC. The only nexus between the SIEC and INEC is the fact that the voter register that is used in the conduct of local government elections is the same voter register that INEC compiled.
“So the Constitution and the law obligate INEC to hand over the voter register to SIEC for them to use in the conduct of local government election. Other than that, there is no nexus between what the SIEC does and what INEC does at the national level,” he explained.
Yakubu, who urged journalists to have a good knowledge of the constitutional and electoral framework for the conduct of elections, said reporters on the political beat must know that anyone aspiring to the position of the president in country must be a Nigerian by birth while an aspiring member of the National Assembly or State House Assembly or can just be a Nigerian by naturalisation.
The INEC boss assured that the commission was committed to providing a level playing field to its numerous public and quantitative, seamless and hassle-free electoral services for the electorate in all its actions and operations.
While enumerating the dangers of fake news, especially its capacity to destabilise the society, Yakubu said it is challenging dealing with deliberate misinformation, adding that information relating to the intentions of the commission and its processes could be difficult to communicate.
“The issue of fake news is now a big issue. It is now difficult to filter fake news and real news. The tragedy is that in a society where rumour mongering is a big national challenge, fake news can destabilise the society and lead to complete breakdown of law and order .
“It is also challenging dealing with deliberate misinformation. Information relating to the intentions of the Commission and its processes can be very difficult to communicate. While it is the policy of the Commission to be transparent, some of the materials used in the election are sensitive and cannot be exposed.”
The INEC boss further urged the media see the Commission as a critical national treasure and strive to support it, but to criticise it constructively where necessary.
In his speech, the president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr Chris Isiguzo stated that the Press Freedom Award had become an annual event to recognise journalists and friends of the media who have distinguished themselves in supporting and propelling press freedom in the country.
He noted that journalists throughout the world are increasingly faced with threats ranging from harassment to arbitrary detention, kidnapping, physical attacks and, in the most extreme cases, killing.