2023: INEC Warns Churches And Mosques
Political parties and candidates have been forewarned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against using masked individuals, public spaces, and religious institutions during campaigns.
Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Committee on Information and Voter Education, urged political parties to strictly adhere to the Electoral Act’s requirements in order to avoid penalties as set down in the Act in an interview with Punch. The National Assembly and presidential campaigns will officially begin on September 28. The elections will take place on February 25, 2023.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Committee on Information and Voter Education, Okoye, used Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022, to clarify that the law expected political campaigns to be civil and free of abuse.
Theatrical acts, such as the usage of masqueraders, were frequently used by several political parties and their candidates during the past elections to entertain the crowd and liven up their rallies. Others secretly ran campaigns to win over government employees and worshippers in places of worship, particularly churches and mosques.
In the interview, Okoye stated:
“Section 92 of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory that a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
Therefore, 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.
Subsection 3 states that places designated for religious worship, police stations and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions; or to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates or their programmes or ideologies.
Masqueraders shall not be employed or used by any political party, aspirant or candidate during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.”
In reference to subsection (5) of Section 92, Okoye cautioned parties and candidates against training or enlisting the aid or services of people or groups with the intention of displaying physical force or coercion in a way that could cause justifiable apprehension during the campaigns. This was demonstrated in some previous elections where parties hired thugs to fend off opponents.
Okoye stated in relation to Section 6 of the Act: “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.”
Speaking about the requirement for compliance, the INEC national commissioner noted that the Act already included sanctions for offenders and that all parties and candidates should prioritize abiding by the law.
“A political party, aspirant or candidate who contravenes any of the provisions of Section 92 of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction in the case of an aspirant or candidate, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.
A person or group of persons who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant or a candidate in organising 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 imprisonment for a term of three years or both.”
During campaigns, he continued, anyone who pressure others to back their candidates or desist from backing a specific candidate should be condemned.
“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.
A political party, candidate, aspirant, person or group of persons that contravenes the provisions of Section 93(1) of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction in the case of a candidate, aspirant, or person or group of persons, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; 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.”