The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned media professionals, accredited election observers and social media users against publishing results of the forthcoming elections not endorsed by the commission’s returning officers.
INEC National Commissioner, Mr Festus Okoye, who gave the warning on Friday in Awka, the Anambra State capital, at a sensitisation forum for the media on the 2019 general election, noted that announcing results were legally reserved for returning officers.
According to him, Section 123 (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) stated that any person who announces or publishes an election result knowing same to be false or which is at variance with the signed certificate of return commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 36 months imprisonment.
He called on media professionals to properly study the constitution and the Electoral Acts and apply them accordingly in their reportage to avoid misinforming the public who, he said, rely solely on the media for information.
“The constitution is the fundamental law of the land and all other laws are dependent and flow from its provisions. The Electoral Acts set out the procedure and processes for the conduct of elections in Nigeria and the third are the regulations and guidelines as well as the manuals issued by the INEC for the conduct of elections.
“Media managers must have good knowledge of the dynamics and nuances of the electoral processes. Media manager that does not have such knowledge is a danger to the electoral process and a danger to democracy,” Okoye said.
He warned media organisations and observers against violating the secrecy of the vote by attempting to record how a voter is voting or how the voter has voted even though they were allowed to polling units, collation centres and distribution centres.
The INEC National Commissioner, while soliciting for symbiotic relationship with the media for successful general election, said the commission was determined to conduct credible elections that meet international standards.
Okoye explained that the commission was not going to relent on arresting anyone caught going into the polling cubicle with a camera phone, because according to him, it aides vote selling and vote buying.
Speaking on INEC and voters education, Mr Victor Aluko, while stressing that men constitute highest number of registered voters in the country, urged eligible voters to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) or risk not being allowed to vote at the election.
Earlier, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, represented by the commission’s Administrative Secretary, Mr Charles Ibanaga, enjoined social media users to be factual and objective in their political reportage and do away with fake news.