The Independent National Electoral Commission has advised political parties and candidates against using masqueraders, public facilities, and religious centers for campaigning one month before the presidential and National Assembly elections.
To avoid punishment, the commission requested that political parties carefully adhere to the rules of the Electoral Act. INEC set September 28 as the start date for presidential and National Assembly campaigns, with elections taking place on February 25, 2023.
In a recent conversation with our reporter, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Committee on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, noted that the law expected political campaigns to be civil and free of abuse, citing Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Previously, several political parties and candidates were known to participate in various forms of theatrics, including the use of masqueraders, to entertain the crowd and add color to their rallies. Some also secretly campaigned in public offices and places of worship, particularly churches and mosques, in order to win civil servants and worshipers, respectively.
“Clause 92 of the Electoral Act makes it essential that a political campaign or slogan shall not be contaminated with harsh language directly or indirectly likely to damage religious, ethnic, tribal, or sectional emotions,” Okoye added, invoking the requirements of the section.
“As a result, abusive, intemperate, slanderous, or base language, as well as innuendoes or innuendoes intended or likely to incite violent reaction or emotions, should not be employed or used in political campaigns.”
“Subsection 3 specifies that places of religious worship, police stations, and public offices are not to be utilized for political campaigns, demonstrations, or processions, or to promote, spread, or attack political parties, candidates, or their programs or ideas.”
“No political party, aspirant, or candidate shall use or use masqueraders during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.”
As seen in previous elections where parties hired thugs to repel detractors, Okoye warned parties and candidates in reference to subsection (5) of Section 92 against training or enlisting the help or services of individuals or groups for the purpose of displaying physical force or coercion in a manner that could arouse reasonable apprehension during campaigns.
During prior campaigns, certain political parties used goons to maintain order and keep political opponents from interrupting their rallies.
However, Okoye added in reference to Section 6 of the Act, “A political party, aspirant, or candidate shall not keep or use an armed private security organization, 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 any manner during campaigns, rallies, processions, or elections.”
Offenders face imprisonment.
Speaking on the importance of compliance, the INEC national commissioner stated that the Act already provided for punishment for offenders and that all parties and candidates should prioritize adherence to the law.
In conjunction with subsections 7(a)(b) and 8, Okoye stated, “A political party, aspirant, or candidate who contravenes any of the provisions of Section 92 of the Act commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months in the case of an aspirant or candidate; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000
“A person or group of people who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant, or a candidate in organizing or equipping any person or group for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or three years’ imprisonment, or both.”
“Section 93 of the Act prohibits a party, candidate, aspirant, or person or group of persons from directly or indirectly threatening any person with the use of force or violence during any political campaign in order to compel that person or any other person to support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidate,” he added, referring to those who coerce others to support or refrain from supporting a particular candidate during campaigns.
“A political party, candidate, aspirant, person or group of persons who violates the provisions of Section 93(1) of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months in the case of a candidate, aspirant, person or group of persons; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N500,000 for any subsequent offence.”
Purchasing of election materials
Meanwhile, with 181 days until the general elections, beginning with presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, INEC announced that tenders for the procurement of sensitive materials for the elections had begun, with the exception of those that needed to be procured close to the polls.
The commission’s calendar also said that gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly elections would be held on March 11, 2023.
When asked if the commission had begun acquiring sensitive and non-sensitive items, Okoye stated, “Our zonal stores have begun receiving the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.”
“We have identified the reusable materials and are compensating for the shortfalls.” Our local government offices are undergoing major and minor upgrades. Tenders are currently being accepted for the acquisition of sensitive materials. There are sensitive materials that must be developed or obtained near the election season.”
On whether the commission had received all of the funds it required from the Federal Government to conduct the elections, Okoye stated that INEC had received all of the funds it required for the activities during this period, adding, “We are confident that the commission will continue to receive funds for its various activities as and when due.”
Printing of ballot papers
INEC said it cannot create ballot sheets until the voter registration is cleaned up, which will allow it to know the real number of registered voters, as part of its election preparations. It stated that the figure will be used to determine the number of ballot papers to be printed.
In response to a concern about printing, Okoye stated, “The commission cannot print the ballot papers at this time.” Before printing ballots, the commission must be certain of the approximate number of registered voters.
“This means that the commission must clean up the voters’ register and show it for claims and objections before determining the number of voters who will participate in the election.”
He went on to say that the commission will subsequently invite the political parties running in the elections to inspect their identities as they appeared on the ballot sheets.
“The panel must also design the ballot papers,” Okoye remarked. Section 42(3) of the Act provides that, not later than 20 days before an election, the commission shall invite in writing a political party that nominated a candidate in the election to inspect its identity appearing on samples of relevant electoral materials proposed for the election, and the political party may state in writing within two days of being so invited by the commission whether it approves or disapproves of its identity as it appears on the sam
Collection of PVCs
Okoye stated that permanent voter cards (PVCs) ready for the 2019 general elections were available for pickup across the country.
“Registration officers from the commission traveled to the various registration centers with the uncollected cards,” he added. Cards are still being collected for people who registered during the first and second quarters of the CVR.
“The commission will only make a determination of the amount of uncollected cards when the collection of cards is halted close to the election period.”
In addition, when asked how many Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems the commission would purchase to replace those lost during attacks on several INEC offices, Okoye stated that the procurement was proceeding and that the commission would have the amount it need before the polls.
“The commission will acquire and deploy at least 200,000 BVAS for the 2023 general elections,” Okoye noted. To increase the quality and efficiency of electoral services, the commission implemented an all-in-one device.
“The commission’s multi-functional integrated device has distinct acronyms for the various functions it is utilized for.” The INEC voter enrolment gadget is used during voter registration. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, often known as BVAS, is used during voter accreditation. The INEC result viewing device is used during the result upload.
“The device will be installed in Nigeria’s 176,846 polling units, with redundancy put in the 8,809 registration regions as a backup.” The commission is still acquiring the gadget, and we are certain that we will have enough in time for the elections.”
However, the commission has emphasized that vote-buying continues to be a blight on the electoral process since it undermines the primacy of the voter in making reasoned decisions and reduces the integrity of the vote.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of INEC, has stated that the commission supports the formation of the Election Infractions Commission and Tribunal to address electoral offenses. He testified during the House of Representatives public hearing on the measure to form the commission on Tuesday.
“Our considered position is that the conduct and management of elections is a multi-stakeholder endeavor, and all components of the unit must organize for the delivery of electoral services,” Okoye said.
“All stakeholders must work together to eradicate the epidemic of vote buying and selling.” The commission will continue to improve the election environment in order to make the vote secret. In terms of arresting, investigating, and prosecuting vote purchasers and sellers, the commission will continue to cooperate and consult with security forces.
“The commission supports the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal with the authority to arrest, investigate, and convict electoral violators.” In Nigeria, we must disrupt the cycle of cynical electoral impunity.”
‘Issue-based campaigns are essential.’
Meanwhile, in addition to the requirements of Section 92 of the Electoral Act that prohibit specific conduct during political campaigns, there is a growing need for political parties and candidates to focus their campaigns on issues rather than personal attacks for the benefit of everybody.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, advised candidates and supporters at the 2022 IBB Legacy Dialogue in Abuja on Thursday to avoid hate speech and instead focus on problems.
“As we reach the critical stage of the 2023 general election in Nigeria, it is critical to use this occasion to urge all political parties, candidates, and other key stakeholders to adopt issue-based campaigns,” Sambo stated. To prevent boiling the polity, we must all refrain from using hate or profane words, as well as mudslinging.”
Similarly, Auwal Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, noted that some political groups had no programs or agenda and were simply concerned about gaining power, which caused them to focus on irrelevant issues. He urged Nigerians to oppose such parties.
In a conversation with our correspondent on Thursday, he added, “Politicians do it purposefully in order to avoid the issues, and it is critical that people oppose that.” We need actual programs to hold them accountable, not abuse, personal attacks, or nice language that we can’t cling to.
“At all levels of the competition, we want to know their plans for security, how they intend to revitalize the education sector, fight corruption, strengthen anti-corruption institutions, improve health care, infrastructure, and the public procurement process, address illicit financial flow, and create an enabling environment for businesses and industries.”
“They were elected on the basis of those commitments, and we in the TMG want to see issue-based conversations by all so that we can hold them accountable on that basis.”
Yiaga is looking for clarity.
Mrs Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programs at Yiaga Africa, also stated that citizens must insist on issue-based campaigns rather than the typical vitriol and personal assaults.
“Election is the process by which we choose our leaders; people who can take control of driving this democracy and sustainable development, and this is the era for us to determine who these leaders are, but the only way to do that is to listen to the candidates,” she explained.
“Nigeria’s democratic democracy must progress beyond primitive feelings such as ethnic, religious, or regional biases, as well as attacks on individuals or hate speech.” We need campaigns that are motivated by issues that impact the country, and there are many of them. For example, we need politicians who have a clear plan for promoting women’s rights and gender equality in their government. Only politicians who take a stand on these issues deserve to be elected.
“We want to know how they will do it, not just what they will do; I mean a clear road plan.” We want to see the “how” in these efforts, whether it is unemployment or education, in terms of strikes, the increasing number of out-of-school children, and other challenges. We want to know how not simply that we will.”
She stated that individuals must set the agenda in order to avoid distraction, adding, “The next election is about the soul of this country, and if we do not make the correct decision to vote for the right people, we may lose our future.”
IPAC is heard.
Meanwhile, Yabagi Sani, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, stated that while people would want to see issue-based campaigns, he was concerned that Nigerian politics was still dominated by sentiments.
“Of course, we’d want to have issues-based conversations,” he said, “but our politics is defined by some of these dichotomies, and then people are drawn into some of these things.” It also happened during the primaries. We recognize that the scenario we are in calls for someone to lead us out of this quagmire, but it will be up to the media to determine the agenda.
“Yes, Nigerians have a role to play, but the difficulty is how they can rise above ethnic and religious feelings because it’s as if the three big tribes are competing to take over Nigeria.” That is the situation we are in.”
We’re prepared – APC
The ruling All Progressives Congress stated that it is ready to engage people on concerns rather than frivolities.
In an interview with our correspondent, the party’s spokesperson, Felix Morka, stated, “As the ruling party, we have complete interest in discussing the issues and the role of the government in the lives of our people.” Our priority is to convey to Nigerians the work of this government, how it has impacted people’s lives, and how our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, would mobilize every resource to make life meaningful for them. That is all we are concerned with.
“Those who wish to focus on other subjects or personal issues, such as how individuals dress, whether they wear an expensive suit or not, can do so.” But we are interested in debating the issues and convincing Nigerians that this government has done well on topics affecting their well-being. The next administration we propose will perform better than the current administration.”
‘The PDP is always issue-focused.’
Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party stated that its discussions have always been based on issues and that Nigerians should insist on being engaged on issues.
Debo Ologunagba, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, told Sunday nigerianwatch on Friday, “In this election cycle, we have been basing all our conversations on issues and doing comparative analysis based on issues in the areas of the economy, security, education, human capital development, and other areas.” Prior to 2015, rather than discussing the issues, the APC continued to trash the then-President Goodluck Jonathan, calling him various names and spreading falsehoods. The end result is what we see today.
“That is why our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his running partner, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, have been talking about issues rather than persons.” However, where there are persons whose records must be challenged, the PDP will do so. However, Nigerians are prepared for this issue-based discussion, and we are prepared.”