The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria is organizing a series of workshops to train public affairs officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be better able to interact with stakeholders in the run up to next year’s general election, according to Nick Dazang, the electoral body’s national Deputy Director for Public Affairs.
Dazang says INEC officers who have participated in the program are pleased with the intensity and knowledge they acquired during the training, which he says will improve their education and sensitization duties with the over 72 million registered voters in next year’s vote.
“It will be of tremendous benefit to the commission in the sense that the public affairs officers will be in the position to do their jobs more confidently and more competently than they used to do before,” said Dazang.
Dazang says the training will help INEC engage with civil society organizations, political parties, the media, prospective voters as well as the entire population about efforts to organize credible elections.
He says the second part of the training of INEC’s public affairs officers in the country’s northern region will end on Friday.
Critics say INEC has often failed to organize credible elections by rigging the vote in favor of some political parties. But Dazang disagreed, saying the electoral body has been impartial in administering elections in the country. He added that INEC has implemented new measures, backed by political parties, to improve the way the group administers elections.
“Elections generally are a matter of perceptions. The fact that the EMB [Elections Management Body] has to be seen to be up and doing and conduct elections that are credible, that are fair and transparent, Nigerians also need and members of the international community also need to see these elections truly transparent,” said Dazang.
“It is the public affairs that can help the EMB to project INEC as an organization that is determined and irrevocably resolved to conducting elections that are free and fair,” said Dazang.
Analysts say education campaigns previously conducted by the electoral commission to sensitize Nigerians ahead of elections have been inadequate. Dazang said the U.S. Embassy training will help INEC to better educate Nigerians in the run up to next year’s elections.
“We expect that Nigerian voters will be better educated and that our public affairs officers will devise strategies other than the orthodox once that we used to do to reach out to the millions of voters that are going to cast their vote,” said Dazang. “We expect that the public affairs officers will be in a better position to effectively communicate the commission’s messages, and our polices to the many stakeholders of INEC.”