By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
The former Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, for Akwa Ibom State, Barrister Mike Igini has said that going by the provisions of the Electoral Act, no political party or candidate should be denied access to state-owned facilities for campaigns and rallies.
Igini, who served in the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for ten years also said that the 2022 Electoral Act emphatically and unequivocally stated that political parties and their candidates do not need a police permits to organize political rallies.
Fielding questions from Vanguard going on his advice going by his vast experience on election matters, the laws that guide political campaigns under the new 2022 Act and what must be adhered to by politicians as political campaigns kick off on 28th September, he called for strict adherence to laws guiding political campaigns.
According to him, “Thematically, the laws that regulate and guide political campaigns are very clear and unambiguous and should be strictly adhered to during the campaign periods.
“In fact , the entire provisions of sections 91,92,93,94,95 and 96 are intended to deal with the recurrent issues denial of access to public facilities and media platforms, hence they are mandatory for unhindered access to the use of state owned or publicly owned venues and event centres like stadia, civic centers that may be used as venues for rallies or other such political events, as well as access to publicly owned media platforms and also provisions for equal airtime parity for candidates at prime time news slots.
“Hence, no candidates should be denied access to state owned facilities for use in the forthcoming political campaigns leading to the 2023 elections because these facilities belong to all Nigerians whether as members of any ruling party or as members of opposition parties.
“The laws also restrain hate speeches that we are already being treated with gradually given some volatile comments from supporters of political interest groups trending in the social media.”
On reports from different parts of the country that candidates of political parties are being denied access to government facilities for campaigns and police preventing the holding of political rallies, he described the situation as worrisome.
He said, “I have read some of these reports and it’s quite unfortunate that political intolerance is already being exhibited and more disturbing if not worrisome is the report concerning the action of policemen that are statutorily mandated under the new Act to always provide adequate security for political rallies and processions for political parties and their candidates upon notice of such rallies.
“In fact, section 91 emphatically says the Commissioner of Police in each state shall provide adequate protection for political rallies and shall be supported by personnel of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corp.
“ln fact, I’m shocked to read some of these reports that you have referenced because subsection (4) of this section itself says and l quote “No registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate shall be prevented from holding rallies, procession or meeting at any time for their constitutional political purposes and the police shall resolve any conflict of time and venue between and amongst parties where such arises in a consultative manner and not an imposition.
“Barring whatever l may have omitted, those are words of the 2022 Electoral Act that must be adhered to.”
Asked what he meant by that a police permit is not needed to organize political rallies or procession, he said, “Look, it’s not what I’m saying but that the 2022 Electoral Act has declared emphatically and unequivocally that political parties and their candidates do not need a police permission to organize political rallies.
“This provision is consistent with a plethora of decisions of superior courts of the land that citizens do not need police permission to organize rallies, in fact, subsection (3) made it abundantly clear that notwithstanding any provision of the Police Act, the Public Order Act or any other law, the role of the Police and Civil Defence Corp that has been statutorily mandated to work with police on matters of political rallies is limited to the provision of adequate security only.
“Therefore, notification to police to provide security does not mean seeking permission from police authorities.”