By Dapo Akinrefon
WITH l 30 days to the general elections, the political parties have put their machinery in motion canvassing votes from the electorate through posters at strategic points, a development that is raising dust in Lagos.
In Lagos State, the frontline political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are talking tough.
The Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) is the agency responsible for the regulations of pasting of posters, billboards and any form of advertisement in the state.
But crisis seems to be brewing between the APC and PDP over the removal and defacing of posters as both parties have continued to point accusing fingers at each other.
While the APC on its part is saying that the PDP and its supporters have been responsible for removal of posters belonging to candidates vying on its platform, the PDP says otherwise.
Prior to this, the Lagos State Police Command had asked LASAA to desist from removing the campaign posters and billboards of political parties.
The state Commissioner of Police, Cornelius Aderanti, was reported to have given the warning at the command headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos.
Aderanti, who said the police had also held a meeting with LASAA authorities on the matter, added that the electoral act did not permit any agency or people to remove candidates’ campaign posters.
According to him, “We note with concern the series of complaints which have been made against LASAA by candidates of various political parties about removal of campaign billboards and posters purportedly by personnel of the agency. The Electoral Act 2010 as amended is clear in Section 100(2), where it said that state apparatus, including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or the disadvantage of any political party or candidate in any election.”
The police boss, who called on the agency not to be biased in the discharge of its duties said “the command wishes to advise LASAA to desist from any act that will call to question its purpose. I have also held a meeting with personnel of LASAA to that effect. Various agencies of government are encouraged to be fair in all that concerns their oversight functions to ensure that no political party is shut out of the electoral process.”
Besides, the CP added that he had also directed the Area Commanders of Police and the Divisional Police Officers to arrest anyone or group found removing campaign posters of political parties.
“Without prejudice to any political party, I have directed my ACPs and DPOs to arrest anyone who removes billboards or posters of candidates. Anyone caught, no matter how highly placed, will be apprehended by the police. The command enjoins all political parties to go about their campaigns lawfully and peacefully in the state,” he said.
Lagos Police bias—APC
However, the Lagos APC has accused members of the PDP of resorting to removing APC’s posters and banners across the state, which it said portrayed a dangerous display of political rascality and crass illegality that will not be allowed to endure in Lagos.
The state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Joe Igbokwe, said that the open display of outlaw and brigandage in Lagos by the PDP in respect of placement of posters stems from the open show of support, which the state Commissioner of Police showed to PDP in utter disregard of the existing laws of the state.
The party warned that nothing should be made to breach the peace and security of Lagos by either the PDP or the police “as the state and its law abiding citizens will rise up to meet any challenge thrown to the state by desperate political invaders.”
According to him, “we recall that recently the Lagos PDP alleged that it was not being allowed to paste posters in Lagos, which necessitated the intervention of the state police.
“It would also be recalled that the Lagos Police Commissioner summoned the Managing Director of LASAA, the agency that had been regulating advertising and pasting of bills and posters in Lagos.
“We note that the LASAA MD explained to the Commissioner of Police the laws and regulations guiding pasting of posters in Lagos, which had existed for years now and which the PDP had consistently flouted. But to our utter disdain, the Police Commissioner rushed to air even while the meeting had hardly ended with a threat to arrest LASAA officials for doing their lawful duties thereby not only approving the unlawful activities of PDP without regard to the laws of the state”, Igbokwe said.
He added that following this alleged tacit support from the Commissioner of Police, the PDP members and agents commenced the process of removing the posters and campaign bills of the APC in the entire Lagos Island. He explained that they (pdp) have gone further to lay their posters on top of the APC posters in flagrant disregard of the feeling of Lagosians and the Commissioner of Police has remained conspiratorially silent.
“We ask, is this the real intendment of the Lagos State Police Commissioner in issuing the tendentious and clearly partisan threat of arresting LASAA workers for doing their lawful duties?”, the party’s spokeman queried.
He said while “we await the action of the Lagos State Police Commissioner on these flagrant display of illegality and actions against our party, we want to warn that we will not take kindly to any effort by any invading party and the police to intimidate us in our state.”
The party further stated the need for a prevention of law and order saying “we warn that nothing should be done to provoke our members to acts capable of breaching the peace of Lagos for which we have worked tirelessly to build. We ask the State Police Commissioner to refrain from giving tacit support to the PDP and shielding them from sanctions from illegal acts.”
APC’s claim untrue — PDP
In its defense, the Lagos PDP tackled the APC over its claim.
Speaking with Vanguard, state Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Taofik Gani said: “We know that the true intent behind the falsehood now employed by the Lagos APC publicity is simply to lay the foundation to claim that there was no level playing ground in the process leading to the elections. Obviously they are losing in the coming elections.”
Continuing, Gani said “they are also notorious for raising accusations in area they have committed default or plan to commit default.”
While he dismissed the assertion made by the APC over removal of its posters, the party’s spokesperson said it was their posters that are being torn and subsequently removed by APC supporters.
He said “It is our posters that are being torn. The police have their intelligence report and that is why they want to protect all parties, not PDP in particular.
“My call at this time is for the Police to arrest and prosecute the APC leaders who may have said this to come and show why he should not be jailed for maligning the Police in order to obstruct their powers to maintain law and order. The APC is always quick to condemn or blackmail any government official, agency or system which they cannot compromise to support their inordinate cause,” he said.