Festus Okoye, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, has charged officers of the commission to brace up ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Particularly, Mr Okoye charged heads of voter education and publicity and public affairs officers of the commission that they have prominent roles to play before, during and after the elections.
He gave the charge at a capacity-building workshop, organised for Heads of Voter Education and Publicity and Public Affairs Officers of the Commission, from the 17 Southern states of Nigeria on Monday in Asaba.
He stressed the need for the departmental heads to improve on their communication channels, especially with the media and the public ahead of the general elections.
”We want to see better and robust engagement with the media. We want to see well written press statements that represent the clear intentions of the commission and convey same with simple language.
”We want to see clear engagement in the social media. Policies of the Commission and innovations must be communicated to the grassroots using the best and most effective means of communication,” he said.
Mr Okoye, while welcoming the participants, noted that it was imperative and fundamental that the Commission continuously build the capacity of its frontline staff to understand issues in the electoral process and communicate effectively.
He said that the year 2022 would be a busy and challenging year for the Commission, as it would present complex realities and showcase the complexity of the democracy and electoral process of the country.
”The Commission will release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections.
”The year 2022 is loaded with activities and all heads of departments and public affairs officers must be abreast of these activities.
”Elections take place at the base level and it is important to build the capacity of our communication experts to undertake the arduous challenges that comes with election management and organisation,” he said.
Mr Okoye also said that the commission has reduced pernicious human interference in the electoral process and deepened democracy through greater use of technology.
He noted that the Commission retired the Smart Card Reader and introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the purpose of voter accreditation.
”The Commission also introduced and deployed the INEC Result Viewing (IREV) Portal through which it uploads polling units results to a central Portal for public viewing.
”As communicators, you must devise and deploy creative and innovative approaches of communicating issues and challenges in the electoral process,” Mr Okoye added.
On his part, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for INEC in Delta, Rev. Monday Udoh-Tom, said that the workshop is critical to the 2023 general elections, adding that there are new innovations by INEC.
He explained that the participants, as the mouthpiece of the various states, were going to be trained on the innovations.
According to him, heads of voter education and publicity affairs officers from 17 states are here and they are going to be trained on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and INEC Result Viewing, IREV, system.
Also, the Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES- Nigeria), Hamza Fassi-Fihri, said the need for efficient and seamless communication in an electoral system could not be over-emphasised.
He said that efficient and seamless communication constitutes an important aspect that would enable or hinder the outcome of every successful process.
Mr Fassi-Fihri commended INEC for setting up the editorial board and editorial team for INECNEWS at both of headquarters and state offices.
Fassi-Fihre noted that ECES-Nigeria is ready to offer more support for the initiative, adding that it would go a long way in ensuring the full implementation of the communication policy.