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'How media can drive electoral reforms in Nigeria'- Experts

JamesEze01 06/25/2020

The media has been called upon to be a catalyst for positive change in the country especially in the area of electoral reforms.

Country Director of the BBC Media Action in Nigeria, Kaleem Kahn made the call on Thursday in an address to participants at a roundtable/townhall meeting on electoral reforms.

The roundtable was organised by the International Press Centre Lagos in conjunction with the Yiaga Africa, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and EU-SDGN.

Mr Kahn noted that trust, independence and inclusivity in the media are essential to a functional democracy.

He blamed the low turnout of electorates in the last general election to lack of trust in the electoral system.

"The electoral turnout in the last presidential election was at an all time low. Research shows that young people are apathetic and do not trust that elections are free and fair and do not believe that positive change will happen through elections".

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He said the media must continue to educate and inform the people in the need to participate in the electoral process.

"It is part of the essential job that media does to constantly remind people to peacefully participate in the democratic process and encourage a media environment where it is normal to hold Leaders to account", he said.

Mr Khan noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to increase media content consumption by the people.

This, he said, presents a veritable opportunity for the media to serve as catalyst for change.

"People are also suffering due to this pandemic and I think we should be providing them with the platform to demand for action from their elected leaders on electoral reforms as well as on many other issues", he added.

Earlier, the Executive Director of IPC, Lanre Arogundade said the virtual roundtable was aimed at promoting discourse on the role of the media in promoting electoral reforms. 

He said the Webinar with the theme 'Media as Catalysts of Best Democratic Practices: Yiaga Africa-ECES/EU-SDGN Town hall meeting on electoral reforms in focus', was apt at this point in the life of the nation .

"The thrust of this meeting is to elicit media interest in and facilitate greater media coverage and reportage of the whole gamut of the electoral process to ensure that needed reforms are passed by the National Assembly through needed amendments to the Electoral Act and the constitution", he said.

In a keynote address, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo,lamented the decline in quality of elections.

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He noted that while turnout have recorded sharp decline, cost of elections and election petitions have increased with diverse implications for future elections and reforms.

He listed some factors against electoral reforms to include lack of political will, timing, and wrong perception that electoral reforms will limit chances of future electoral victory.

Mr Itodo listed five key priorities for electoral reforms which the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) need to urgently work on before the next general election.

These include: legal recognition for electronic accreditation, voting, collation and transmission; subjecting declaration made by returning officers under duress or controversial circumstances to further review by the commission and establishment of an electoral offences Commission.

Others include: addressing the duality of jurisdiction between election petitions tribunals and regular courts, reviewing and harmonising timelines for the determination of pre-election matters to ensure pre-election disputes are resolved before the date of election.

Mr Itodo also said their is need for introduction of legal grounds for rejection of list of candidates submitted by parties to INEC as well as powers and conditions for suspension of elections.

Another resource person, Toun Osonaiya of Women Radio accussed the media of discrimination against women in politics during the 2019 election.

She said the media tends to shut out women in politics or focus more on their personal lives instead of their capacities and manifestos.

"For there to be free and fair election, the media must be deliberate in being gender sensitive. We need to be deliberate in profiling women in politics and giving them a level playing field", she said.

Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman in his contributions said INEC is very open to use of technology during election.

He however noted that INEC on its own cannot unilaterally introduce electronic voting.

"It has to come from the constitution and this is where electoral reforms comes in. The media should help in propagating the need for electronic voting", he said.

Mr. Jake Epelle, Executive Director of The Albino Foundation called for reforms of certain segments of the law to make it compulsory for INEC to provide inclusive means of voting for disabled persons.

About 90 participants (male and female journalists and editors) from the broadcast, print and online media (across the six-geo political zones) participated in the webinar which is in pursuance of the broad objectives of the EU-SDGN project.  

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A team of media experts comprising Mr. Hamza Idris, Editor of Daily Trust; Mr. Taiwo Gorge, Editor, The Cable; Dr. Biodun Ogidan, Nigeria Community Radio Coalition; Mrs. Mary Atolagbe, Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors/Deputy Director Digital Media Voice of Nigeria (VON); Mr. Imoni Amarere, Executive Director, AIT and Mr. Eze Anaba, Editor, Vanguard were also on hand to offer insights on the theme of the webinar.

Source: opera.com
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