…We’ll wield the big stick if… — INEC
…Offenders risk N1m fine, 6 months imprisonment
By Clifford Ndujihe & John Alechenu
IN SPITE of provisions in the Electoral Act 2022 prescribing various punishments for campaign of calumny, the various parties and candidates are still indulging in it since campaigns started on September 28, 2023 and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is yet to sanction anyone.
Leaders and candidates of the three leading political parties – All Progressives Congress, APC; Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; and Labour Party, LP, were, yesterday, locked in claims and counter-claims over non-adherence to issue-based campaigns.
However, the INEC, once again, enjoined the parties to shun mudslinging in their campaigns warning that it would wield the big stick if the parties continued to flout the law.
We’ll prosecute offenders –INEC
Speaking on the raging abusive campaign in the polity, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said: Professor Yakubu had, on two occasions, implored political parties to observe what the Electoral Act 2022 states on how political campaigns should be carried out.
“Sections 92 to 97 of the Electoral Act cover what is allowed and what is not as far as political campaigns are concerned. The Commission has a good relationship with political parties and we meet every quarter or as the situation demands to discuss issues. This matter has been extensively discussed.
“However, the fact that the Commission believes in dialogue does not mean that it cannot wield the big stick. If political parties continue to flout the rules, the Commission will have no option than to prosecute offenders in conjunction with the police.”
APC, PDP, LP trade blames
However, leaders and presidential campaign teams of the APC,
The PDP Presidential Campaign and that of the Labour Party lampooned the APC Presidential Campaign over allegations of attacks on APC members.
Both the PDP and LP Presidential Campaigns took exception to claims that their members were attacking members of the APC nationwide.
APC suffering from agony of pre-election defeat-PDP
Spokesperson for the Atiku-Okowa Campaign, Kola Ologbondiyan, while responding to the APC charge against the PDP, said: “The APC campaign is suffering a severe pain of rejection from Nigerians who have totally boycotted their rallies.
“It is a huge lie for the APC Campaign to claim that supporters of Atiku Abubakar had attacked any other candidates’ supporters. If anything, Atiku has led the most decent campaigns in this election season. He has consistently remained on issues despite the provocation from the Tinubu Campaign.
“Atiku’s supporters and campaign as well as journalists covering these campaigns had been victims of attack from APC and their supporters. It is disheartening that neither Tinubu nor his Campaign Organization has condemned these attacks, rather, Tinubu uses every opportunity to attack the personality of Atiku.”
APC afraid of its shadows-LP
Speaking in like manner, Chief Spokesperson of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, said it was despicable that the APC would have the guts to accuse others of a crime that has been elevated into its code of conduct.
Tanko said: “This is the same APC, a party which has gained notoriety for verbal and physical attacks on supporters of the Labour Party.
“Our advice to the APC is for it to concentrate on selling itself to the voting public and addressing its various forgery scandals instead of making false allegations.
“It is the same APC that has consistently attacked LP members and supporters in Lagos and other states that is talking. Is it not the same APC that sent thugs to stop eligible voters from collecting their PVCs in parts of Lagos?
“Is it not the same party that has launched a threat campaign against innocent traders they suspect are sympathetic to our party and presidential candidate?
“Every reasonable Nigerian is aware that the LP has been running a descent issue-based campaign devoid of name calling and attacks.
“It may interest Nigerians to know that our woman leader in Southern Kaduna was shot and killed in her home by suspected assassins. The news is all over the place. We implore the APC-led Government to wake up to its responsibilities to prevent a bad situation from getting worse than it is.”
PDP, LP suffering reverse psychology – Keyamo
Countering, Chief Spokesman of the APC PCC, Mr Festus Keyamo, said the PDP and LP were the ones attacking APC and not the other way round.
His words: “This is just reverse psychology. They have attacked our candidate from head to toe and abandoned the real issues at stake. They have picked on every single alphabet he says and twisted them out of context. But so far, we have kept our focus.”
What the law says
Section 92 Nigeria Electoral Act 2022, which covers Prohibition of certain conduct at political campaigns provides for fines of two million Naira, one million naira, N500,000 and jail terms of six months to 12 months for various conducts flouting the law.
(1) A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
(2) (2) Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes
designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.
(3) (3) Places designated for religious worship, police stations, and public offices shall not be used –
(a) for political campaigns, rallies and processions; or
(b) to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates or their programmes or ideologies.
(4) (4) Masquerades shall not be employed or used by any political party, aspirant or candidate during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.
(5) (5) A political party, aspirant or candidate of a political party shall not retain, organise, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised, trained or equipped for that purpose.
(6) (6) A political party, aspirant or candidate shall not keep or use armed private security organisation, vanguard or any other group or individual by whatever name called for the purpose of providing security, assisting or aiding the political party or candidate in whatever manner during campaigns, rallies, processions or elections.
(7) (7) A political party, aspirant or candidate that contravenes any of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction –
(a) in the case of an aspirant or candidate, to a maximum fine of N 1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and
(b) in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N 1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.
(8) (8) A person or group of persons who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant or a candidate in contravening the provisions of subsection (5), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.