The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is collaborating with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Matters Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to check vote-buying at the forthcoming general election.

The election umpire described vote-buying as a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the country’s system saying that it has sensitised youths in various villages in the country to monitor and report anyone involved in the act during the elections.

Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Rivers State, made the statement Monday in Port Harcourt at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Correspondents’ Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State.

Speaking on the theme “Media Vigilance Ahead of Peaceful 2023 Election In Rivers State”, Sinikiem, who was represented by the Head, Voter Education and Publicity, Mark Usulo, said that with the new Electoral Act, anyone found with a permanent voter card (PVC) that does not belong to him or her, risks a jail term.

He said the security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) have been briefed to watch for people in possession of PVCs that are not theirs.

“Collecting and seizing PVCs as part of rigging election is an offence against the electoral act.

“Security agencies have been briefed to arrest people in possession of PVCs, not theirs”, he stated.

The REC called on the media to ensure accurate reportage of INEC activities before, during and after the general elections, saying that the electoral body would ensure a free, fair, credible and violent-free elections.

In his remarks, veteran journalist and Head, Corporate Communications, Indorama Petrochemicals & Fertilizer Group, Dr Jossy Nkwocha, called on the media and Nigerian journalists to be patriotic in the reportage of the forthcoming general election in the country.

Nkwocha, who is the Head, Corporate Communications, Indorama-Eleme, made the call while speaking in Port Harcourt, as Chairman of the occasion at the opening ceremony of the 2023 Correspondents’ Week.

He called on journalists to be careful about spreading fake news from various interest groups saying there is a need to check sources of information before going ahead to use such stories.

Nkwocha said: “Be careful of fake news from various interest groups. Fake news is the biggest threat to journalism and even the electoral process.

“Let us ensure that we check the sources of information before using such stories. Let’s maintain neutrality and try to give all political parties equal opportunities at all times.

“Let’s beware of materials that cause character assassination of political opponents. Let’s be careful with information that may trigger violence in the electoral process.

“Let’s be careful of the ethnic group or religious profiling or political profiling. Journalists should not make themselves cheap before politicians.

“Let’s remember to be patriotic and know that Nigeria is our only country. Let’s not set Nigeria and Rivers State ablaze with our reports. Let us also remember that the pen is mighty; it can build or destroy.”

In his welcome address, Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Rivers State, Amaechi Okonkwo, expressed worry over the rising spate of political violence ahead of the 2023 general election in the state.

Okonkwo said: “This period usually make a high demand on our peaceful disposition and usually, we are found grossly wanton. The reports are already tumbling of election related violence.”

“In the past few weeks, we all know what has been happening around politics and campaigns in Rivers State. Even before now, we are not unaware of information about violence or pockets of violence here and there relating to election and electioneering in Rivers State.

“Rewind to 2019 when we last held general elections here and you will understand, the economic and social disruptions, the loss of lives and property and the nightmares of the militarization of the state, which are still very fresh in our hearts.

“This is the reason we insisted on joining the discussion to reinforce not just the discussion on but demand for peaceful general elections in Rivers State.”

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