The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it was phasing out manual electoral process in line with global trends in election management and communication.

Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye who represented INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at a virtual workshop on INEC Communication Policy, said “existential challenges occasioned by a pandemic” necessitated the change.

Okoye said transparency in the result transmission process led to the development and deployment of the INEC Result Viewing Portal wherein the Commission uploads Forms EC8A for public viewing.

“The INEC Communication Policy is a composite document designed to address both internal and external communication processes and procedures of the Commission and for the Commission.

“It is designed to eliminate ‘ad-hocism’ in the entire gamut of the Commission’s communication system,” he said.

According to him, it was difficult getting individuals, groups and organisations to focus on the conduct and management of elections in a period of fear and anxiety.

“It is difficult getting individuals and groups to focus on elections when the dominant issues in global lexicon relates to a virus and protocols relating to managing it.

“It is difficult getting people to focus on elections and electoral matters when there is looming danger that they may be out of job or already out of work or are in Internally Displaced Persons camps. It is difficult getting people to focus on elections in a period of uncertainty,” Okoye added.

He charged the media to familiarise themselves with the intentions of the document and see it as a tool not only of understanding the commission’s communication policies.

“Consequently, information/communication experts and managers must design ways and means of getting the people to focus on messages that are related to the electoral process.

“It is also important to disseminate such messages and information using means that the people can relate to in a new setting of physical distancing, lockdown and daily rise in infection level.

“Information managers must therefore communicate in such a way that people will see and appreciate election as an essential service,” the National Commissioner advised.

The Commission, he said, more than before, needed the understanding, cooperation and reach of the media to get its messages across to the Nigerian people, adding that it was true that the traditional media was presently facing existential crisis and was moving its operations towards maximising the benefits of the social media.

According to him, “Even at this, the Commission sees it a crucial partner in reaching out to its publics. Even with all the efforts of the professionals within the Commission to disseminate relevant information diligently, the media still has its role cut out clearly in propelling the information to the larger public and also in placing the Commission’s programmes in perspective.

“On our part, we will do our best to communicate and communicate effectively. We will continue to be proactive in the dissemination of information. We will continue to robustly engage with the media,” he stated.

He explained that the Commission was aware that the old ways of doing things must gradually give way to the new normal.

“The Commission is therefore courageously and boldly deepening the use of technology in the electoral process. This is the basis of the introduction of the INEC Party Nomination Portal; the Election Observer Accreditation Portal and the Media Accreditation Portal.