Ahead of February 16 and March 2 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on the Police and other security agencies not to stand in the way of accredited journalists deployed to cover the general elections.

INEC Federal Commissioner in charge of Anambra, Enugu and Benue states, Festus Okoye, made the call yesterday in Awka, at a sensitisation forum organised for media practitioners ahead of the poll.

According to Okoye, journalists are critical stakeholders in the process and must be granted unfettered access to voting, coalition and distribution centres. “Accredited journalists must also be allowed to inspect all election materials,” he said.

He also stated that media managers must be guided by election rules and relevant materials including the 1999 Constitution as amended, Electoral Act 2010 as amended and INEC Regulations and Guidelines to effectively perform their roles.

Okoye added that the public relies on the media for the right information during elections; hence the need for them to be in tune with the basic rules guiding the process.
“It is axiomatic that you cannot give what you do not have. Therefore, to report effectively, media managers must have good knowledge of the dynamics and nuances of the electoral process.

“A media manager that is blank in terms of information or does not read but relies on old order to inform the public is a danger to the electoral process. It is a matter of common knowledge that a large majority of the Nigerian people rely on the media for information on the electoral process, so it is fundamental and in the national interest for the media to be on top or be reliable,” he said.

The INEC Commissioner noted that some political parties are guilty of not following provisions and guideline in the electoral laws, adding that all the stakeholders must ensure the process were free, fair and credible.

He wondered why politicians are against continuous accreditation and voting when it was actually suggested and subsequently endorsed by them during commission’s expanded stakeholders meeting in Abuja. He said the resolution became imperative to forestall the 2015 experience where over two million accredited voters were not able to cast their votes due to the clumsiness of the process.