ElectionsFacebook ChecksFact Check

INEC will use university lecturers as returning officers in 2023 election, contrary to viral press release

Claim: INEC will not use university lecturers as returning officers for the 2023 general election.

INEC will use university lecturers as returning officers in 2023 election, contrary to viral press release

Verdict: FALSE. The viral press release purported to have emanated from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is fake. Available information from INEC shows that the commission will engage university lecturers as returning officers in the 2023 general election.

Full Text

A WhatsApp post claims the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not use university lecturers as returning officers in the 2023 General Election. 

The post, forwarded to various WhatsApp groups, appears to be a press release credited to Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner and Information and Voter Education Committee Chairperson. 

The supposed press release dated Thursday, January 5, 2023, reads: “INEC decided that they will not use University Lecturers as returning officers for the 2023 Election. INEC will use only their staff for the exercise.”

INEC will use university lecturers as returning officers in 2023 election, contrary to viral press release

Screenshots of the WhatsApp posts 

The claim has also gone viral on Facebook, where it appears to have been shared since January 10, 2023, was still trending as of February 21, 2023. It was also posted on group pages and shared by individual accounts.

Verification

The first redflag was the absence of INEC’s letterhead and the press release’s informal nature.

To further authenticate the originality of the post, DUBAWA checked the Twitter handle of INEC (@inecnigeria), where it found a press release with the same date signed by Festus Okoye but on a different subject matter.

The press release referred to a meeting held announcing that the International Conference Center (ICC) Abuja has been chosen as the venue for the National Situation Room and Collation Center for the Presidential election.

Further verification revealed that INEC met with the Vice Chancellors of Universities, where it asked them to shortlist only lecturers who are non-partisan and have no criminal records of serving as Returning and Collation officers in the 2023 General Election. 

Premium Times, THISDAY, The Guardian and the Cable reported the event.

Also, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kwara State, Garba Madami, confirmed in an interview with DUBAWA that over 400 lecturers in Kwara State would be deployed as Returning and Collation Officers for the 2023 General Election. 

In addition, Festus Okoye has also debunked the claim in a chat with journalists in Umuahia, Abia State, where he was quoted as saying that “INEC has never said it was not going to use university lecturers as Collating and Returning Officers. Most of our Presiding Officers are corps members; most of our Assistant Presiding Officers are students of federal tertiary institutions in their penultimate year.

“Our Collation and Returning Officers will come from lecturers from federal tertiary institutions. We have had a meeting with Vice Chancellors of federal universities involved,” he explained. 

Conclusion

Our findings show the viral press release purported to have emanated from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is fake. Available information from INEC indicates that the Commission will engage university lecturers as returning officers in the 2023 General Election.


The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Harmony FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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