Femi Adesina, a media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, has debunked the president’s alleged role in the plot against the use of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation Machine System (BIVAS) in the 2023 general elections.
Mr Adesina said his principal remains a supporter of the innovative machine and has no reason to remove the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, as suggested by some media reports.
He said this in Abuja on Tuesday, during his address at a “Policy Dialogue on Media, Civil Society and Violence-free Election in Nigeria.”
The event, which is in commemoration of the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, re-established the reality of threats to press freedom in Nigeria and beyond, especially during an election year.
The event is celebrated on 2 November annually.
Over 1,200 journalists were killed between 2006 and 2020 worldwide in the line of duty. Eight out of 10 of these extra-judicial killings remain unresolved, according to UNESCO.
The Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) said not less than 16 journalists have so far been killed in 2022 even as 290 persons were jailed in 2021 globally for doing their job.
At least 65 journalists have also been said to have gone missing in action globally.
Mr Adesina, also a journalist, aligned with this reality and noted his efforts and other image-makers of the president in dealing with threats against journalists that have been brought to their attention.
He also did not rule out the possibility of having “unconsciously” let impunity go unpunished under the current administration.
Mr Adesina spoke about the danger of giving credence to fake news, many of which he noted to have lately been making the news ahead of the polls.
While there have been reports of a scheme by some top members of APC to halt the use of BIVAS and sack the INEC boss, Mr Adesina described the information as untrue and should not have been reported.
“You find that some shadowy people or shadow groups will just come with grey waves. However foolish the grey waves are, you’ll find the media trumpeting those things.
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“Recently, there was one group that said the chairman of INEC was going to be removed, maybe because the government didn’t want BVAS. How many times has the president spoken about the role of technology in getting him into office? He has spoken about it locally, internationally that three times he contested, three times he ended at the Supreme Court because the government of the day and their cohorts will just write results, they never voted.
“He said until technology came and there was a permanent voters card and so it was difficult to rig results. So, how and why will the same person have issues with the BVAS?
“I saw that group on television alleging that there was a plan to remove the INEC Chairman and the way the media took them seriously. Such things should be treated with scant attention because they don’t make sense. At least not under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
Mr Adesina argued that his principal would not have been advocating for free, fair and credible elections at every forum if he had the intention of sabotaging Nigeria’s democratic principles and electoral signs of progress achieved so far under his leadership.
The two-day event which started on Tuesday was organised by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in collaboration with an organisation named Managing Conflict in Nigeria.
While Mr Malami was at the event in person to lend his voice to the course of press freedom, the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was represented.
Mr Mahmood, who was the keynote speaker, was also represented by Mohammed Haruna, an INEC National Commissioner.
The INEC Chairman, in his keynote address read by his representative, said the 2022 celebration of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is to reposition all efforts to advance the safety of journalists across the world.
“A free media may not be sufficient for democracy to survive and thrive, but it is an absolutely necessary condition. Hence the belief in, and commitment of, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as both the conductor and regulator of Nigeria’s electoral system, in the freedom of journalists to do their work.
‘It is this belief and commitment by the Commission in a free media that has led it to include it (the media) among four of the many stakeholders in our democracy that it has held regular quarterly- and the emergency – meetings with since I became Chairman in 2015. The other three institutions are the political parties, civil society organisations (CSOS) and the national security with the Nigeria Police Force as the lead outfit since elections are civil matters,” he said.
Among Nigeria’s numerous national challenges, which do you think the next president should focus on first?
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