Electoral Reforms: Media Must Lead Conversation to Advance Process—Stakeholders. 

By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News

The media have been charged to lead the conversation on electoral reforms in Nigeria as these reforms can not advance without their support.

This was the crux of the YIAGA Africa-ECES/EU-SDGN virtual roundtable/town hall meeting on electoral reforms which held on Thursday and was moderated by the Director, International Press Centre (IPC) Mr. Lanre Arogundade.

Participating stakeholders emphasized on the need for the media to set an agenda and take centre stage in championing electoral reforms in Nigeria.

Speaking in a welcome remarks, the Program Manager, Governance (EU) Ms. Laolu Olawumi, who stated that the European Union has been working on electoral reform in Nigeria, stressed that  the media is supposed to lead this conversation.

She urged the media to refocus attention to issues of electoral reforms.

Also speaking, the Coordination Advisor/ Electoral Administration Expert ECES-Nigeria, Manji Wilson, said that a lot still needs to be done with all hands on deck to ensure Nigeria gets the legal regime it truly deserves which needs to be comprehensive, transparent and inclusive, adding that this will go a long way in ensuring successful, inclusive, free and fair elections and by extension engineering good governance.

Manji, stated that the media constituency has an important role to play in achieving this, noting however that despite the barrage of issues plaguing the media landscape, the media have shown tremendous resilience and commitment towards the growth, development and sustenance of democratic tenets in Nigeria.

According to him, “In this regard, we expect more commitment to high ethical standards and professionalism in your reportage of electoral and political proceedings as this will go a long way in entrenching development of the process, beginning with critical issues of electoral reforms. Furthermore, more attention should be given to the rising spade of fake news and disinformation which threatens our democracy.

“ECES always stands ready to engage with the media constituency in our support to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Nigeria within the EU-SDGN”, he said.

For his part,  the Executive Director of YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo while giving background reflection on electoral reforms, stated that Nigeria needs a national conversation on a new electoral design or framework that responds to prevailing socio-political and economic realities.

He remarked that INEC must improve its capacity to deliver credible elections and political parties must play according to the rules, noting that failure to do so, could imperil Nigeria’s 20 years democracy.

Itodo, noted that the quality of Nigeria’s elections is declining and it has an impact on the political legitimacy, adding that the COVID-19 provides a catalyst for electoral reform.

He listed the key priorities for electoral reform to include; “Legal recognition for electronic accreditation of voters, e-voting, e-collation and electronic transmission of results; Addressing the duality of Jurisdiction between Election Petition Tribunals and regular courts, and reviewing and harmonizing timelines for the determination of pre-election matters to ensure pre-election disputes are resolved before the date of the elections.

Others are; “The introduction of legal grounds for the rejection of lists of candidates submitted by parties to INEC as well as powers and conditions for suspension or cancellation of elections; Subjecting declarations and returns made by Returning Officers under duress or controversial circumstances to further review by the Commission; and Establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission”.

Itodo, stressed on the need to accelerate the electoral reform as Nigeria is just 969 days, 31 months to the 2023 elections.

For his part, the INEC Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi noted that critical stakeholders such as INEC, Political Parties, Judiciary, Security Agencies, Media, Development Partners, Registered Voters and Civil Society are needed to achieve electoral reforms and credible elections.

He said that the media has an oversight function above all the other sections, stating however, that political parties interfere with all the other Seven(7) and are the most difficult. He emphasized that a lot needs to be done to tackle the immense power the political parties exert, and the media has a role to play in that regard.

The Panelists who were drawn from the media—Newspapers, Radio, Television, and Online stressed on the need for the media to; Set agenda in respect to Electoral reform; Exonerate itself from partisanship to regain trust; Collaborate with the CSOs to form an alliance to achieve a formidable electoral reform; and Push for INEC to be truly independent.

They also called on the Government to tackle insecurity; Promote social inclusion of campus and community radios, so as to activate young voices; INEC should properly utilize radio to educate the electorates on the need to vote peacefully; CSOs and Electoral reform stakeholders should pay attention to the Editors to deepen Partnership.

The Panelists include: Hamza Idris, Editor Daily Trust; George Taiwo, Editor TheCable; Mrs Abiodun Ogidan, Unilag Radio; Mrs. Mary Atolagbe, Secretary Nigerian Guild of Editors; Imoni Amarere, Executive Director, AIT; Abdullateef Abubakar Jos, Editor, Freedom Radio Kano;  and Eze Anaba, Editor Vanguard.

Electoral reform is a democratic project that promotes common good, social stability and national development, as well as an important element of political reforms.

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