One month before the commencement of the much anticipated 2023 presidential and National Assembly election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned against political parties and candidates using public facilities and religious centers for their political campaigns. The Presidential and National Assembly campaign with are scheduled to commence from the 28th of September, and on the 25th February, 2023, the commission has admonished political parties to strictly adhere with the provisions provided in the Electoral Act, so as to avoid being sanctioned.
Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner and Committee Chairman on Information and Voters Education explained that in accordance with the Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022, political campaigns are expected to be civil, with no form of abuse. Previous electioneering campaigns have witnessed political parties enacting different theatrics, as well as campaigns in public offices and religious gatherings. Okoye however noted that Section 92 of the Electoral Act prohibits political campaigns and slogans tainted with abusive notions, whether it be directly or indirectly aimed at injuring religious, ethnic or sectional feelings. Thus, abusive innuendoes, intemperate or slanderous languages that are likely to provoke violent reactions will not be tolerated.
Sanctions in place for parties & aspirants that violate Electoral Acts.
He further cautioned political parties against hiring political thugs. Referencing the subsection 5 of the Section 92, he warned against parties and candidates training individuals and groups to indulge in physical coercion that would arouse apprehension during the campaign, adding that political candidates must also not keep or make use of armed private security organizations of any sort for provision of security. They will be unable to aid political candidates during campaigns, rallies or elections, as referenced in the Section 6 of the Act.
Okoye, speaking on the need for political parties and candidates to adhere to these Electoral Acts, noted that there were sanctions in place for violators. A political aspirant that contravenes any of the provided laws of the Section 92 of the criminal law is liable to pay the maximum fine of N1 million or imprisonment that will last the term of 12 months. In the case of a political parties, the fine of N2 million is attracted on first offense and N1 million on subsequent offense. Speaking of those that force others to support their candidates during campaigns, Okoye stated that the Section 93 of the Electoral Act prohibits coercion of support for a candidate or party, and any aspirant, individual or group guilty of this offense is liable for the maximum fine of N1 million or imprisonment within a period of 12 months.
Numerous Nigerians urge parties to base their campaigns off issues.
Meanwhile, the electoral body has commended processes for the procurement of sensitive materials to be used for the elections. Okoye noted that INEC’s zonal stores have started receiving non-sensitive materials that is required for the conduction of the impending election. He stated that the body had determined the reusable materials, whilst working towards making up for the shortfalls, with renovations going on within the local government offices across the country. He also noted that INEC had available, the necessary funds needed to efficiently carry on its activities within this period.
In addition to the prohibition of certain campaign conducts, as enacted in the Section 93 of the Electoral Act 2022, numerous individuals have urged political parties to base their campaign strategies off issues affecting the country and how to salvage them, rather than indulging in personal attacks against other opponents. Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan and his Vice President, Namadi Sambo, during the 2022 IBB Legacy Dialogue, urged overtly shun hate speeches. Sambo asserted that issue-based campaigns should be enacted towards the impending general election and avoid overheating the polity.
TMG interested in issue-based debates for holding aspirants accountable.
Anwal Rafsanjani, Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group also noted that Nigerians must resists political parties that are only interested in attaining power rather than creating clear cut plans to solve the issues that have ravaged the country’s socio-political and economic status. He criticized politicians who resort to attacks on other candidates instead of identifying issues and means to solve them, stating that what the country needs are tangible programmes that can be enacted to hold these candidate’s accountable to the revitalization of the socio-economic systems in the country, asserting TMG’s interest in witnessing issue-based debates and holding these candidates accountable on this basis.