The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism commends journalists and media houses that providedmedia coverage of the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria which held on February 23, 2019. The media no doubt played a crucial role inexposing some salient challenges in the electoral processthereby fostering democratic norms in the society. Cases of electoral violence, logistic issuesand security lapses in some parts of the country were reported. Unfortunately, election related violence led to the death of at least 39 Nigerians recorded across the country.
The harassment of journalists was reported in parts of Imo and Ondo States. A Premium Times reporter was briefly detained and harassed at Ward 1 in Ogboko village, Idea to South Local Government Area of Imo state. In Imo, the journalist who was duly accredited to cover the elections was banned from the centre by men who appeared to be thugs after they temporarily seized his working materials. Also, the arrest of five pressmen, Nwanosike Onu of The Nation, Geoffrey Anyanwu of Sun, David-Chyddy Eleke of THISDAY, Vincent Ujumadu of Vanguard and Tony Okafor of Punch, by a team of fully armed police officers close to the residence of Peter Obi (Vice Presidential Candidate PDP), in Anambra where they had gone to cover him during the voting exercise was reported. Additionally, journalists were barred from monitoring the collation of results in Ugheli North, Delta State; Amuwo/Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, as well as parts of Bauchi and Kebbi State.
To foster democratic practices in Nigeria, and the world at large, it is important that members of the public steer clear of all forms of electoral violence which has led to death of some and the disruption of electoral processes thereby affecting the participation of citizens in exercising their civic duties. The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism strongly condemns such shameful acts and reiterates that the unpalatable experiences of some journalists in past elections must be eliminated by security agencies in future elections starting with the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections holding on Saturday 9 March, 2019. The responsibilities of the security agencies are clearly spelt out in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) called on the Police and other security agencies not to stand in the way of accredited journalists deployed to cover the general elections because journalists are critical stakeholders in the process and must be granted unfettered access to voting, coalition and distribution centres.