Voter turnout: INEC says political parties, others must rise up to challenge

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has challenged stakeholders in the electoral process to rise up to the challenge of low voter turnout in elections and own the process of voter mobilization for elections.

The Commission threw the challenge today, during a one-day sensitization forum for Broadcast Media Practitioners in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on the forthcoming Area Council elections scheduled for Saturday 12th February, 2022.

National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye Esq., while declaring open the Sensitization Forum, observed that the Commission is mandated by Section 2 of the Electoral Act (2010 as amended) to conduct Voter and Civic Education, and promote knowledge of sound democratic election process.

He however noted that “voter mobilization and getting out the voters is one of the principal responsibilities of the Political Parties”.

He added that; “the Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) must continue to assist and engage in multi-stakeholder action to encourage voter participation and engagement”.

On preparations for the Area Council elections, the IVEC Chairman disclosed that elections will also be conducted in the newly created polling units across the 6 Area Councils, and also reaffirmed that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) will be deployed for the purposes of voter accreditation and uploading of polling unit results.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the FCT, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, said preparations for the Area Council elections were on top gear. He explained that the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) of new registrants have been printed and are now being distributed. “New registrants, those that applied for transfer and those with damaged PVCs are encouraged to approach the Commission’s Area Council offices and collect their PVCs”, he urged.

The REC also explained that stakeholder engagements, grassroot sensitization in collaboration with CSOs and other pre-elections activities ahead of the elections are on course. He appealed to members of the Media to see the successful conduct of the elections as a priority and canvased their support through citizen’s sensitization and mobilization.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, underscored the important role of the Media in elections. He said the Forum was put together due to INECs “deep respect for the media as a critical and indispensable partner in the electoral process”.

He continued: “This is more or less a tradition, and it has been beneficial to INEC in many ways. When INEC speaks, acts, issues press statements, reacts to false allegations or debunks conspiracy theories, and Nigerians get to hear about it, it is because you, media professionals, have reported on it through your respective channels”.

“Use the immense powers that you have for good causes. Continue to support INEC to conduct free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections. We are not asking for blind support. We are always open to constructive but not destructive criticisms”, Oyekanmi urged the media.

On his part, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Chapter, Emmanuel Ogbeche, applauded INEC for its continuous recognition of the place of the media in social mobilization and participation especially in the electoral process.

He called on his colleagues in the Media to “see the engagement as a patriotic duty of availing your various platforms and programs to harp on the electoral process, while the Commission also does not lose sight of the business aspect of the media”.