By Omeiza Ajayi
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has unveiled its revised Communication Policy, expressing greater commitment to the provisions of the Freedom of Information FOI Law.
The revised policy which was sanctioned by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu outlines specific roles for INEC staff and spokespersons as well as provide clear rules of engagement between the commission and its target publics, and also among the various departments in the commission.
In his Foreword, Prof. Yakubu noted that “for the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to succeed in discharging its constitutional responsibilities, it is necessary for it to have an efficient and effective communication strategy within the Commission itself and with its outside public”, adding that this necessity is underscored by the size, scope and variety of these publics or stakeholders.
According to him, the need to communicate clearly and precisely within the over 16,000-staff strength of the Commission itself, and with its huge and varied outside stakeholders in carrying out its mandate was of such great importance that INEC included it among its five strategic objectives, the first time it took the decision to have a Communication Policy five years ago.
“Since then, much has changed in the politics and socio-economics of the country. Accordingly, the Commission took a decision to revise its Communication Policy to take into account these changes. To this end, the revised policy contained in this document has incorporated new techniques, multiple platforms and monitoring templates for the attainment of the objectives contained in the Commission’s Strategic Plan”, he explained.
The new policy which conceded that the FOI Act applies to INEC added that the Commission is under a legal obligation to comply with the law and fully implement it.
“INEC fully intends to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act, as this will further enhance its transparency and accountability, while also reinforcing its public image of integrity and credibility as well as strengthening public trust and confidence in the Commission. The framework for the disclosure of information to members of the public under the FOI Act will therefore form an integral part of the Communication Policy of the Commission”, the electoral umpire declared in the document.
INEC noted that the revised communication policy/strategy “is informed by the need for the Commission to earn and sustain public trust; remain visible, accessible and accountable to the public; comply with legislations requiring transparency and proactive disclosure of information; have an integrated approach to information dissemination that is both traditional and IT-driven; and for staff to use information technology and communication facilities responsibly and professionally”.
Ultimately, the communication policy will enhance INEC’s transparency, credibility and integrity as well as strengthen and sustain public trust and confidence in the Commission.
Specifically, the policy seeks to “ensure INEC’s visibility, accessibility and accountability, using a variety of communication channels/languages and targeting diverse stakeholders; provide the public with timely and accurate information about the Commission’s policies, programs, services and initiatives; promote mass participation in the registration and voting processes; provide information that would enable the public make informed electoral choices and have sufficient knowledge about institutional mechanisms for seeking redress; and foster partnerships with stakeholders towards achieving the goals of the policy”.
The revised policy had the inputs of some experts who were members of a Technical Committee set up for that purpose. Among them are pioneer Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission NBC, Dr Tom Adaba, Mr Lanre Arogundade, Mr Obadiah Tohomdet, Mr Ahmed Balarabe Sa’id, Ms Ibiba Don Pedro and Dr Akin Akingbulu.