Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) held a two-day training for journalists on peacebuilding and non-violent elections in Ibadan, Oyo State from January 30th to 31st, 2023. The training, funded by the European Union (EU) under its Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (SDGN) initiative, attracted about 25 media practitioners from various platforms, including newspaper houses, radio and tv stations.[spacer height=”25px”]
An inception round table meeting on January 30th, 2023, provided the opportunity for journalists to learn about the EU’s contribution to sustaining democracy in Nigeria. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, noted in his opening remarks that the EU is contributing to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria through its SDGN programme implemented by different civil society organisations. These organisations work under different clusters but have an overarching objective to promote sustainable democracy and non-violent elections in the country.[spacer height=”25px”]
Subsequent presentations were delivered by Phillip Jakpor, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, and Zikora Ibeh, Policy and Research Officer at CAPPA. Whilst Jakpor spoke on “The Role of the Media as Society’s Watchdog,” Zikora delivered a presentation on “Engaging the Media in Peace Building.” The inception meeting concluded with a session led by Abayomi Sarunmi, Programme and Digital Manager at CAPPA, which provided practical ideas for stimulating structured discussions scheduled for the second day of the training.
The second day of the training began with an address by Phillip Jakpor, who introduced the training objectives of the day to the participants which were: to examine the challenges facing journalists in reporting the elections and the electioneering process in Nigeria, to build the capacities of journalists in non-biased reporting and promotion of peaceful and nonviolent electoral processes, and to familiarize journalists with the Electoral Act 2022.
Next, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, delivered a welcome address. He saluted participants on behalf of CAPPA and other implementing partners of the project such as SOS Children’s Villages, and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC). He highlighted the prevalence of political violence in Nigeria’s elections with Ibadan, Oyo State, as a historical theatre of war. He charged the media to utilize their platforms to curb the spread of hate speech and violence-driven campaigns and report news in ways that shun violence and promote peace. He also noted that the training would provide an avenue for journalists to learn more about the Electoral Act, 2022, and rub minds on ways to advance peace pre- and post-election period.[spacer height=”25px”]
A representative from SOS Children’s village also gave a goodwill message on behalf of SOS’s National Director, Eghosa Erhumwunse. He encouraged media practitioners at the event to strive towards providing age-specific information to every member of the country to control the spread of misinformation and help all age groups understand better the proceedings of the election.[spacer height=”25px”]
Dr. Tunde Akanni delivered a presentation on the drivers of conflicts in elections. He noted that, in many instances, these variables that constitute and manage conflicts during elections are often stakeholders with entrenched interests in the elections. Dr. Akanni listed some of these variables, including politicians and political parties in the arena that mudsling themselves in the name of campaigns, party members who are often drawn to debate dissenting opinions in the public sphere, members of civil society who must work with key stakeholders to sustain and advocate for peace in the society, and the umpire, which in Nigeria’s case is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He also urged journalists to work to mitigate electoral conflicts by embarking on news fact-checking and reporting issues in a conflict-sensitive manner to ensure peace.[spacer height=”25px”]
Aderonke Ige discussed the modalities for the general elections, focusing on the Electoral Act, of 2022. She discussed the responsibilities of sectors of the economy to journalists. Accordingly, the government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of journalists. Political parties must respect the rights of journalists to report stories as factually as they occur. Civil society ought to work with the media to propagate voter education. But she noted that for every right there is a responsibility, as such, the media also has a responsibility to provide credible and conflict-sensitive information.
Aderonke Ige, Associate Director at CAPPA, discussed the modalities for the general elections scheduled to hold on February 25 and March 14, 2023, focusing on the Electoral Act, 2022 which refers to the updated legal framework expected to guide the 2023 elections. She also interrogated the responsibilities of different groups to journalists, including the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of journalists, political parties’ responsibility to respect the rights of journalists to report stories as factually as they occur, and civil society’s role in working with the media to propagate voter education.[spacer height=”25px”]
Speaking further, she noted that the Electoral Act, 2022, provides a robust framework for the conduct of elections in Nigeria with new provisions that seek to guarantee the financial independence of INEC and early release of funds, promote the early conduct of primaries and submission of candidates list, empower aspirants to institute action for false information, grant legal backing for electronic voting and transmission of results, provides for the extension of the time frame for publication of election notice among others. In addition to these developments, the 2023 general elections will be technologically driven. For authentication and verification, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS) will be used to accredit voters on the day of elections and take a picture of the election result sheet after voting has ended, to upload and transmit to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV).[spacer height=”25px”]
The Executive Director of the International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, also delivered a presentation on conflict sensitivity and safety in reporting elections and urged media practitioners to adopt digital and offline security measures while engaging in their journalistic duties during elections.[spacer height=”25px”]
Dr. Olayinka Oyegbile, a veteran journalist and academic, dwelt on newsroom culture and urged reporters and journalists to always align themselves with the newsroom culture of their workplaces. He also cautioned journalists against running with unverified information scooped from new media platforms and urged them to fact-check information in order to provide citizens with important news.
The workshop ended with practical exercises to help participants navigate varying work scenarios in real life. At the end of the meeting, participants thanked CAPPA for the enlightening meeting and promised to put everything learned into practice. The training was a valuable opportunity for journalists to gain insights and knowledge on promoting peaceful and nonviolent electoral processes.