11 February 2019

Nigeria: Conduct Credible, Fair Election That'll Be Globally Accepted, UN Tells Nigeria

United Nations, weekend, challenged the Federal Government and all stakeholders in the upcoming general elections to work harder at ensuring that the outcome of the exercise was acceptable to all and sundry.

UN Special Representative of Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, gave the charge at a national workshop on broadcast media coverage of 2019 general elections with the theme: Fake News, Hate Speech, Vote and PVC Buying, in Abuja.

Chambers, who was represented by Takwa Zebulun, said Nigeria, as the big brother that had played a stabilising role in many parts of Africa and consolidating their democracies, should be able to conduct a credible and fair election that would be globally accepted.

According to him, Nigeria occupies a strategic position in West Africa, the African continent, and, indeed, globally and, therefore, expected to deliver credible, peaceful and fair elections in 2019 in a manner that improves upon the performance of the 2015 elections.

He said: "I want to assure you that our engagements are solely complementing what INEC and relevant institutions and stakeholders are already doing to further mobilise Nigerians as well as the international community to contribute towards violent free, hitch free elections that will symbolise global best practice.

"The issues on the agenda on the sanctity of the 2019 general elections cannot be over stated. This state level workshop seeks to reinforce and complement the capacity of the key actor to prevent, manage and resolve possible election-related disputes peacefully."

He urged stakeholders to ensure that the outcome of the general elections before, during and after the polls will be clothed in the acceptable tenets of a free, fair, credible and peaceful process.

Don't be messengers of hate speech, fake news -- Minister

In his remarks, Minister of Information and Culture, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Deaconess Grace Ekpe, charged broadcasters not to allow enemies of state use them to broadcast hate speech and fake news, and stressed the need to observe the broadcasting code.

He said: "It is important broadcasters begin to observe the broadcasting code and relevant clauses related to the conduct of political broadcasting. This is essential to avoid sanctions being meted out by the appropriate government agencies against broadcast organisations who violates the rules in the broadcast code.

"The media, especially the social media, must use their platforms to join hands with government to curb the menace of fake news and hate speech in all ramifications. Government is concerned about the notorious prominence of fake news in the public space.

"This is not good for our country because the broadcast sector plays a major role in providing not just information about elections but also giving objective analysis of the process."

Earlier in his welcome speech, Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Modibbo Kawu, said the gathering was the finale of a nation-wide effort, which commenced last year when a team of Nigerian researchers was commissioned to do an in-depth study of the place of hate and dangerous speech in the 2015 general elections.

"Today's gathering in Abuja, is the final one, timed to bring critical stakeholders together on the eve of the 2019 general elections. The work we have done over the past three years with our licensees on the dangers associated with hate and dangerous speech was consciously done to help us have a broadcast culture that assists with the deepening of the democratic culture in our country.

Electoral violence, dent on our democracy --IGP

In his goodwill message, acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, represented by CP Kenneth Ebrimson, described electoral violence as a dent on the nation's democracy and charged all players to play according to the rules.

The police boss said hate speech and fake news had gone a long way to heat up the polity, where people deliberately tried to spread unfounded news to cause panic, situations that are likely to breach peace and maintained that all stakeholders must join hands to check them in the coming elections.

"This discussion is apt and will act as a catalyst to mitigate gate and dangerous speeches. Fake news and hate speech has been bedeviling our electoral processes and taking ugly dimensions in recent times. The successes or otherwise of this election could be marred by hate speech, fake news, PVC buying.

"Hate speech and fake news have gone a long way to heat up the polity, where people deliberately tried to spread unfounded news in order to cause panic, situations that are likely to breech peace," he said.

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