The national headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission has sent a letter to all its 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners, informing them that it has stopped its officials from being members of WhatsApp groups.
It also said that its officials had been asked not to create any such social media group under any guise.
The commission took the decision via a memo sent to the RECs with reference number PE: CE/1001/1/27 and signed by the acting Secretary to the commission, Mr Okechukwu Ndeche.
Our correspondent gathered that officials of the commission have different WhatsApp groups where they discussed various issues that had to do with welfare, working conditions and others.
For example, some of its officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday that some members of staff of the commission opened a WhatsApp group to discuss a certain disbursement of funds.
During their discussions, some of them were said to have complained that they were shortchanged by their different bosses.
“I think the management of the commission was not pleased with the outcome of our discussions on the matter and others. We even resolved to confront our bosses with our findings. I think this did not go down well with the management who felt that we were forming a trade union.
“The fear is that if we continue like this, we may unite and insist on some things which the management may not be ready to give or is unable to give and this, I think, must have given them the impression that our unity may affect the conduct of the 2019 general elections,” the source said.
The commission, in its memo, alluded to this when it said that the “incessant disclosure of official information is capable of creating rancour and disharmony within and outside the commission.”
Ndeche, in the memo titled, Unauthorised ‘disclosure of official information,’ asked the RECs to enforce the contents of the memo.
The memo read, “The commission has observed with great concern, the incessant disclosure of official information/fake news especially in the social media which is capable of creating rancour and disharmony within and outside the commission.
“This rather embarrassing action is inimical to the image of the commission and contravenes provisions of Section 3:04.2(v), (viii), (xiii) of the INEC Staff Conditions of Service (2017).
“It is instructive to note that administrators of any such WhatsApp groups wherein official information is circulated would be criminally liable for the posts on the platforms and held accountable.
“Consequently, the commission hereby proscribes all existing WhatsApp groups or the establishment of any group under the guise of the commission.
“Henceforth, only project WhatsApp groups will be authorised and are to be closed at the end of that particular project.
“Accordingly, you are please requested to bring the content of this circular to the notice of all staff in your state and enforce strict compliance.
“Accept the assurances of the commission’s high regards.”