By Bolaji Buhari
Lagos – The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) on Friday described reports that it connived with some political parties to manipulate the list of candidates for the July 22 council election as absurd.
The Chairman of the commission, retired Justice Ayotunde Phillips, spoke at media briefing in Lagos on LASIEC’s preparations for the election.
She said that the commission, under her watch, would not, under any guise, interfere in the internal affairs of parties.
“I wish to use this forum to state with all sense of responsibility that contrary to insinuations by some disgruntled persons that the commission connived with some political parties to manipulate the list of candidates, I wish to state that the responsibility for the conduct of primaries rests with parties and not the commission.
“The commission is only expected to obtain a list of candidates selected through the primaries organised by parties, which are expected to be observed by the commission.
“So, we find media reports accusing the commission of conniving with some members of some political parties to impose some unwanted candidates as absurd and ill-motivated to discredit the commission and the electoral process.
“The commission under my watch believes in the rule of law and due process and will not under any guise interfere in the internal affairs of parties,’’ the chairman said.
Phillips emphasised that the role of the media in mobilising the electorate and stabilising the electoral process cannot be over- emphasised.
She said that when the enormous powers of the media were, however, deployed negatively, the harm that could wreak on the society was better imagined.
The chairman appealed to the media to always strive to be patriotic and professional in their reportage of activities of the election.
“You must always be guided by truth and ensure your reports are balanced to guarantee peace before and after the election.
“As professionals, never allow desperate politicians to use you and your organisations for selfish motives which create conflicts.
“You owe it as a duty to use your profession and media practice to promote patriotism and integrity among people,’’ she said.
Phillips urged the media to give LASIEC the necessary support to ensure the successful conduct of the council polls.
She said the media were a critical stakeholder in any democracy, especially at the grassroots, adding their contribution was particularly important for peaceful conduct of elections.
The commission’s chairman appealed to the media to help mobilise the electorate for the election through publicity with a view to address the perennial problem of voter apathy.
On the commission’s preparations for the election, Phillips said it had partnered the National Orientation Agency to step up awareness.
She said that the commission would also start massive creation of awareness through the mass media and others from next week.
Phillips explained that the lack of strict adherence to the election timetable by the commission was because of disruptions caused by public holidays and other contingencies.
She, however, said the commission was still on course as it had begun the screening of candidates for the election.
Phillips said the list of the validated and invalidated would be displayed by the commission on the completion of the screening in a fortnight.
She pointed out that parties still had the opportunity to substitute the names of invalidated candidates after the display.
Asked if the commission would announce all the results in its headquarters as was done in the last council elections, she answered in the negative.
She said the law required the results to be declared at the ward collation centres and that was what the commission would follow.
Phillips said assured that adequate security would be put in place at every polling unit to ensure peaceful conduct.
While assuring residents that the commission would conduct the election without let or hindrance, she urged residents to show interest in the process through participation.
“I urge all eligible voters to participate in the election. It is when they participate that they can elect the right leaders,” she said.
The chairman said that LASIEC would make use of the voters register for the election, and that those participating in the on-going continuous voter registration would only vote if their names appeared on the list with the commission.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that LASIEC has fixed July 22 for the election and July 29 for run-off.