2023: Experts call for multiple testing of electoral devices, training of INEC officers

…Task media on true journalism, factual reportage

As Nigerians are making preparations for the upcoming 2023 general election, experts have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to subject the electoral devices to multiple test runs in order to reduce the rate of failure during the elections.

They also tasked the media to support the work of INEC, and security agencies by using the opportunity created by true journalism to educate the voting masses on their role in actualising credible elections in 2023.

Speaking on the theme ‘Nigeria’s Security Architecture And Digital News Reportage: A Credibility Threshold for a Successful 2023 General Elections,’ at the summit organised in Lagos by the Society of Digital Newspaper Owners of Nigeria (SDNON), Isaac Idahosa, vice presidential candidate of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), urged the INEC to subject the voting devices to multiple tests run to avoid a repeat of issues that mar the operations of the device in the previous elections Anambra, Abuja among others.

He also urged INEC to partner with civil society organisations and foreign bodies to train and retrain the electoral officers that would handle the technology during the elections.

Idahosa, who disclosed that the 2023 general election is crucial to the nation because the election will usher in the transition of power in the presidency which last happened in 2015, said there are signs that the coming election will become one of the nation’s fineness and fairness elections since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.

He attributed that to the changes in the electoral law especially the amended Electoral Act signed into law this year.

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“The new Electoral Act is poised to make the elections credible for two major reasons including the fact that permanent voter’s card registration, which before now was marred by corruption and rigging for the purpose of multiple voting, has now been made more credible, as INEC has developed technology that makes the process more credible, which is a huge leap for the nation’s democracy,” he said.

Idahosa said that the coming of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards, has also shown signs that there would be reduced multiple voting during the elections.

He however, urged the presidency to encourage the stakeholders in the security value chain to collaborate with the Nigerian Police in ensuring the safety of electoral officers and materials.

Kassim Afegbua, former commissioner for information, Edo State, who was a panelist, said every Nigerian has a role to play to have a credible election and that the digital news platforms must be cautious of the kind of news they put out because digital news travel at the speed of light.

While pointing out that the media has the responsibility towards ensuring free and fair elections, he advised practitioners to focus on educating voters to enable them to make informed choices.

Afegbua also urged the media to desist from putting out malicious news on both the digital and print news platforms.

“Media should always have internal checks and balances to ensure their stories are in line with the ethics. Practitioners should always cross-check information to ensure it is from a reliable source. The media owners should avoid being under pressure to make money to keep the business going,” he added.

On his part, Zebulon Agomuo, editor of BusinessDay Sunday, who was also a panelist, called on the media to stick to reporting the truth by looking beyond freebies and gratifications.

“We should be cautious of what we put out as media practitioners because even if we retract stories that are not factual, they must have gone viral and done a lot of damage. Media should avoid the act of rushing to break news without having the facts,” Agomuo said.

He also called on the media houses to invest in the training of their reporters on the ethics of the profession in order to reduce the rate of compromise even as he urged the media to distance themselves from partisan politics and to give all political parties equal opportunity in their reportage.

On how Nigeria can achieve credible elections, Agomuo urged all Nigerians to support the efforts of the INEC and the security agencies.

Senior Commandant, Oloyede, representative of Douglas Eweka, commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos, expressed the optimism that the 2023 general election would be violence-free. He also urged political parties and their candidates to ensure they play by the rules and avoid desperation to win by all means.

Earlier in his welcome address, Adeniyi Ifetayo, chairman of SDNON 2022 Summit Organising Committee, said that at 62, Nigeria was grappling with many challenges, which was why SDNON decided to converge some of the country’s bright minds to proffer solutions to some of the challenges.

According to him, the summit aims at making sense of security issues, and how to strengthen Nigeria’s security architecture, and promote verified digital news reportage in the face of the rampant spread of fake news.

“For us, we do not want to be spectators, but participants. This is why we asked the things our nation needs to have a successful 2023 elections and administration transition. The country needs security that is proactive and works, verifiable digital news reportage and innovative as well as credible leadership that would emerge as a result of credible elections,” he said.