Bayelsa journalists have raised the alarm over an alleged attempt by authorities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deny them accreditation to cover the February 16, 2019 elections in the state.
As a result, they say they will boycott the coverage and monitoring of the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
Comrade Samuel Numonengi, Chairman of the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), made this known while addressing journalists who besieged the press center in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, to get their accreditation tags for coverage of the elections.
The chairman disclosed that of more than 300 journalists whose names were presented to INEC for clearance, the electoral body was only able to provide 80 press tags and kits, leaving out more than 250 journalists stranded, and “at the mercy of security personnel who have been directed to deal summarily with any truant without due accreditation on election day”.
Speaking on the matter, Wilfred Ifoga, Head of Voters Education and Publicity, said the inadequacies was based on what was sent from the headquarters.
However, when the issue was raised during the INEC stakeholders meeting in Yenagoa, Pastor Monday Tom Udoh, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, and Lebaru Nduh, his Administrative Secretary, defended INEC, stating that it was what was made available.
Nduh said: “If your employer gives you instruction on what to do, which would you obey? Your own directive or that of your organization? So journalists should be thankful to INEC for even providing them with 80 press tags and kits for identification, rather than asking for more.”
However, the NUJ says the Nduh is “showing his incompetence by making mockery of the situation on ground, except it is a deliberate attempt not to allow the press carry out its full coverage of the election”.
The NUJ state council had an impromptu meeting after several consultations with the journalists, and decided to boycott coverage of Saturday’s polls, unless INEC provides journalists with adequate/sufficient kits to ensure safety and unhindered access to all units and collation centres on election day.
According to the state NUJ Chairman, Edo State was issued 250 press kits, Rivers State got more than 300, while Bayelsa was downsized to 80.