Deliberate attempt by INEC, Bayelsa state to disenfranchise about two hundred and fifty journalists from covering the Saturday general election in the state has been resisted by media practitioners in the state.
As a result, practicing journalists in Bayelsa State are set to boycott the coverage and monitoring of Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly Elections holding in the state .
Chairman of the State Council of the Nigeria Union of journalists, NUJ, Comrade Samuel Numonengi made this known while addressing journalists who besieged the press center in Yenagoa to get their accreditation tags for coverage of the general elections.
The chairman disclosed that out of over three hundred journalists whose names were presented to INEC for clearance, the electoral body was only able to provide eighty press tags and kits leaving out over two hundred and fifty journalists stranded and at the mercy of security personnel who have been directed to deal summarily with any truant without due accreditation on election day.
Wilfred Ifoga, Head of Voters Education and Publicity, while reacting on the NUJ action ,said that the inadequacies is not from the state INEC but based on what was sent from the headquarters to them.
However, when the issue was raised during INEC stakeholders meeting in Yenagoa, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Pastor Monday Tom Udoh and his Administrative Secrtary , Mr Lebaru Nduh, defended their commission by saying that, is what is made available.
According to Lebaru Nduh “If your employer gives you instruction on what to do which would you obey? Your own directive or that of your organization? So journalists should be thankful to INEC for even providing them with eighty press tags and kits for identification rather than asking for more ”
To NUJ, the admin secretary is showing his incompetence by making mockery of the situation on ground, except it is a deliberate attempt not to allow the press carry out its full coverage of the election.
Piqued by this response, the state council had an impromptu meeting after several consultations with aggrieved journalists, and decided to boycott coverage and monitoring of Saturday’s polls, unless INEC retrace its steps and provide journalists with adequate/ sufficient kits to ensure safety and unhindered access to all units and collation centers across polling centers in the state on election day.
The State NUJ Chairman wonder why Edo State was issued two hundred and fifty press kits, Rivers State got over three hundred ,Bayelsa was down sized to eighty.
With that number journalists in the state might not be able to cover all nooks and crannies as expected. Meanwhile some opposition parties as tagged it to be INEC fraud
Samuel Numonengi who wondered why Bayelsa with more journalists would be short changed, stressed that this would not be tolerated as journalists under his watch cannot be undermined.