By NBF News

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made a case for proper education of political parties' agents on their roles to make April elections credible, free and fair. The commission said this just as it promised to provide a level playing field for all the 53 political parties that are fielding candidates for various positions in the elections.

INEC National Commissioner for Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Aminat Zakari who gave the charge yesterday during a one-day training programme on the roles of party agents in the 2011 elections said the party agents had critical roles to play in the coming elections.

She explained that Section 40 of the 2010 Electoral Act formalised the roles of the agents in the elections and urged the political parties to ensure trusted persons were selected to be agents so that efforts at ensuring credible elections put in place by the INEC were not thwarted.

Zakari further stated that the workshop for the party agents underscored the importance attached to their roles during elections. He said the programme was aimed at educating them towards a greater participation in smooth conduct of elections.

She called on the political parties to ensure they forwarded the names of their agents to the commission in time so that they could be accredited for monitoring of the movement of election materials and the election proper.

According to her, INEC would replicate the programme to the party agents at the state level to make sure the objectives trickle down to the grassroots promising that INEC would do everything possible to provide a level playing field.

However, she advised that parties should be wary of the kind of persons they nominate as agents so that they do not turn out being members of opposition parties. In her address of welcome earlier, the Director, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Mrs. Regina Omo-Agege explained that INEC had everything to make the party agents perform their roles as spelt out in the Electoral Act.

She said the workshop was a step in the right direction to educate them on their roles.

She pointed out that in the past elections, the party agents were toothless dogs and that the amended Electoral Act had made them active agents whose roles were beyond just observing but actual monitoring with objections where necessary.

Omo-Agege told the party agents to ensure the code of conduct signed by the political parties are adhered to at all time during the elections saying, 'you have crucial roles to play this time around and this is why INEC has deemed it fit to organize this educative workshop to sensitize you what roles you should play.'

to compliment INEC's plans for free and fair election.

In his lecture, a Political Scientist, Sam Onaiwu said rigging and other electoral malpractices succeed because the party agents allowed themselves to be bought over by bigger parties owning to the fact that they were ignorant of their functions as agents.

'Why spending billions of Naira when you don't have good agents that will be your ears and eyes during elections and protect your interest at the polling booths, your agents must be sound and alert,' he cautioned.