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From Douglas Blessing 
A Civil Society Organisation, Social Action said the outcome of 2023 general elections will determine the continuous stability, unity and progress of Nigeria.
The group however, advised eligible voters, especially the political actors to shun the habit of vote buying and selling, so as to ensure a rightful and credible candidates are elected into electoral offices.
Head, Community Conciliation and Development Initiative, Social Action, Amaechi Justin gave the advise yesterday, at the training of Port Harcourt journalists on Freedom of Information Act, by the group in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
Justin who expressed hope that the 2023 election will be successful following the recent elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states, urged the electoral empires to desist from falsification of electoral results at the end of the exercise.
He said: “I am not saying that vote buying is not bad, it is bad. Is negative consequence of our election, but the kind of vote buying we are experiencing does not significantly change the outcome of the election. If we can block the results writing by electoral officers in collaboration with political actors we will have a better result.
“We say citizens should not sell out their votes, the incoming 2023 general elections is the key to the stability, unity, progress of this country, so people should take it seriously. If you are engage in vote buying stop it but we want to call on the electoral empire, they should totally and completely desist from falsification of electoral result, that way we may have created a better electoral system”.
Speaking on the Freedom of Information Act, Justin advised journalists to promote and create awareness on the FIOA which encourages Nigerian citizens to demand for public documents for the purposes of accountability and transparency in governance.
“Since 2011 this Act was enacted we have seen very low activation and compliance to this Act and we strongly believe that journalists are primarily the main stakeholders, the people who are supposed to promote this Act so that more citizens are aware of it and begin to use the Act to hold government accountable and to make public information accessible to everybody.
“The major set back in the enforcement of this Act is that citizens not aware of the potential of the Act, the content of the Act and what they can achieve using this Act to strengthen transparency and accountability in governance.
“The awareness level of this Act is very low, citizens and even people who are representing government, government institutions they know very little of the Act. Once we get people to know about the importance, the usefulness, we will begin to apply it to governance in Rivers State and Nigeria in general.
“I want the media to take the lead on the advocacy, to promote and publicize the FOIA 2011 so that more people will begin to use it to request for public information, including information in private hands, private instructions that are using government funds. For instance if they have company that have actually taken money from the government to construction the road, you can use this Act to request information from them and they are bound by the act to comply”.
He also urged the CSOs like the Journalists should also make use of the Act in acquiring a credible information for the public interest.
“The same way I am calling the media practitioners to embrace the Act is the same thing I will say to civil society organisations. Is not enough to set an act and not use it. We are working with other CSOs, encouraging people to begin to see this Act for our request for public information”.

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