ABUJA – The Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr. Garba Abari has said that the agency will commence nationwide sensitisation against vote buying, selling and the challenges of voided votes.

Abari told newsmen on Monday in Abuja that the aim of the campaign was to ensure a peaceful general election.

“As you all are already aware, we are at the threshold of yet another general election which should distinctly showcase the maturing process of our democracy.

“We are empowered by law to engage the citizenry in sensitisation of the electoral process.

“This 2019 election has its own peculiarity, because this is the first time in our political history that we have about 91 political parties contesting in an election.

“It is good for the citizens to know the candidates standing for electoral positions, the political parties and their logos; NOA needs to enlighten the electorate about the process.

“This is because we use to have thousands of voided votes that should have been counted but were invalid; these voided votes led to litigation and violence in the past.

“The national campaign will commence on Jan. 9, 2019, with a national flag-off which will hold in Owerri, the Imo State Capital,’’ Abari said.

The NOA boss explained the that the agency has fully mobilised its staff in the 36 states of the federation, the Federal Capital Territory and the 774 Local Government Areas to carry out mass sensitisation to address the three critical issues.

He emphasised that the three issues were reducing the challenges of voided votes, sensitisation for peaceful general elections and sensitisation against vote buying and selling.

“In implementation of this mass sensitisation, our implementation strategies include jingles on TV and Radio, mass distribution of flyers and posters, community engagement sessions in the 774 local government areas.

“Others are community engagement sessions by our 37 State Directors in their various states, Zonal sensitisation sessions to be led by NOA Directors at the Headquarters and National flag-off to be held at the geo-political zones,’’ he said.

According to Abari, it is no longer news that election in Nigeria are sometimes characterised by large numbers of voided votes.

He stressed that it is quite often the case that a lot of our voters especially in the rural areas are not exposed to adequate continuous voter education.

Abari maintained that voters’ education will equip the electorate with knowledge to express their rights to vote by voting correctly at elections.

“Many of our voters express frustration that their votes will not count. This no doubt contributes to voter apathy and low turnout of voters at elections,’’ he said.

The NOA boss explained that the target audience would include traditional rulers, religious leaders, opinion moulders, youth groups and civil society organisations.

Other stakeholders are women groups, people living with disability, community based organisations, political parties and organised labour.

According to Abari, the purpose is to raise awareness among influencers who would be expected to carry the message to their various spheres of influence.

“The date for the sensitisation will be as follows: North East will be on Jan.15; North Central is Jan.16; North West Jan. 18; South East will be Jan. 14; South West Jan. 16, and South South on Jan.16.

“I call upon all stakeholders to support NOA men on the field with personnel and available resources as we carry out this nationwide task,’’ said the director-general.

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