The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday urged all the Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) of the commission to be knowledgeable and abreast of the newly-signed Electoral Act 2022.
Mr Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information, Voter Education, and Publicity, gave the charge at the opening ceremony of a two-day Editorial Capacity Building Workshop for INEC Public Affairs Officers in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training had all INEC PAOs across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in attendance.
In his keynote address, Okoye said that the commission was leaving no stone unturned in building the capacity of staff, especially public affairs officers who interfaced with the public.
Okoye, who was represented by INEC Administrative Secretary in Lagos, Mr James Popoola, urged the PAOs to be abreast of the new Electoral Act 2022, with a view to aiding their information dissemination.
He advised the officers to use social media platforms to propagate the activities of INEC as the commission prepared for the 2023 General Elections.
“Every public affairs officer must be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations, and be ready to communicate same to the public.
“They must also not be over-confident, but rather study to provide the public with whatever information required correctly.”
Okoye, who urged the PAOs to be familiar with the media, urged them to engage favourably with the social media and explore them for the dissemination of truth about the commission’s activities.
Presenting a paper with the title: “Maximising Social Media Benefits: Curtailing Misinformation and Disinformation”, Mr Mohammed Momoh, former Director, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), urged INEC PAOs to explore the social media to address misinformation and disinformation.
Momoh said that the major challenge facing the social media was misinformation and disinformation, adding that this made the job of information communication very difficult.
“Social media is very fast and timely, but is dangerous as the image of an organisation could get battered through it if care is not taken.
“INEC staff must monitor social media, produce and respond to messages and positions of people while also syndicating messages.
“I urge the commission to provide the PAOs wherewithal to work in the deployment of social media to help in information management,” Momoh said.
According to him, PAOs should not fail to respond and prove wrong purveyors of misinformation.
Also, Mr Victor Aluko, Director, Voter Education and Publicity, said that with the newly signed Electoral Act, there was the need for training of PAOs to provide knowledge for all INEC stakeholders.
Aluko said that the commission had been building the capacity of all stakeholders on political activities and the new Electoral Act so as to be agents of positive news dissemination to the public.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Olusegun Agbaje, said that the training had become necessary for PAOs to build up “an excellent editorial team for the commission”.
Agbaje, who was also represented by Mr James Popoola, the INEC Administrative Secretary in Lagos, said that the form and style of giving verbal or written information mattered a lot in the electoral process, especially in Nigeria.
He commended the European Centre for Election Support (ECES) for partnership, cooperation, support and synergy with the commission in the electoral process in the area of staff capacity building and training.
In a goodwill message, the Executive Director, ECES, Mr Hamza Fasssa-Fihri, said that the workshop aimed at equipping the officers with basic skills and techniques in monitoring a variety of media sources.
According to Fasssa-Fihri, the training is expected to contribute to improving the commission’s internal and external interactions with stakeholders, as well as providing accurate information for timely response.
that the workshop, held in collaboration with the ECES, is targeted at equipping INEC Public Affairs Officers with up-to-date techniques in handling fake news, misinformation and propaganda.