From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has warned it would descend on political parties that contravene the statutory provisions on the use of abusive, intemperate or slanderous language during the campaigns for the 2023 elections.
It also warned that it would unleash the full wrath of the law on any party that fails to comply with the limits on campaign spending under the new Electoral Act.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, handed the warnings yesterday in his goodwill message at the signing of the Peace Accord for Peaceful Campaign organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) held in Abuja.
He said: “In line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and in our determination to play our role as a regulator, the commission will vigorously monitor compliance to ensure that parties shun abusive, intemperate or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns.”
“Similarly, the commission will also closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending under the Electoral Act. There are sanctions provided by law. Political parties and candidates should study and familiarise themselves with the electoral legal framework to avoid any infraction of the law and the unhappy consequences that will follow any act of misdemeanour,” he warned.
Giving updates on the election, the electoral umpire boss, said: “The 2023 general election will be conducted for 1,491 constituencies nationwide made up of one Presidential constituency, 28 Governorship elections, 109 Senatorial Districts, 360 federal constituencies and 993 State Assembly constituencies.
“Every constituency is important. Every election is important. Therefore, the commitment to peaceful and issue-based electioneering campaign should resonate beyond the 18 party chairmen and presidential candidates present here today. It is not enough to simply sign the Peace Accord.
“What is more important is to abide by its letter and spirit. You should similarly pass the message to all your candidates, members and supporters across the country for compliance. This will be your own way of showing appreciation for the work of the NPC and an affirmation of your contribution to electoral peace in Nigeria,” he said.
“I would like to thank the NPC for organising this important event and for the opportunity to deliver a goodwill message on behalf of INEC.
“Twice in 2015 and 2019, political parties and candidates have committed themselves to peaceful elections by signing the National Peace Accord organised by the NPC. The success of the national peace accord at the national level for General Election led to demands by stakeholders for the devolution of the same effort to major off-cycle elections at state level.
“In response, the NPC organised the peace accord ahead of the governorship elections in Edo in September 2020 and subsequently in four more elections. The result is not only the peaceful conduct of these elections but the process keeps improving one election after another.
“Today, the NPC is taking another giant step by inviting parties and candidates to commit to peaceful electioneering campaigns. This is important considering the connection between peaceful campaign on the one hand and peaceful and credible elections on the other. The commission appreciates the positive role of the NPC in the progressive improvement of our elections in Nigeria.
“The Electoral Act 2022 provides for campaign in public by political parties to commence not earlier than 150 days before polling day. Accordingly, campaign by political parties for the 2023 General Election officially commenced yesterday Wednesday 28th September 2022.
“This will continue until 24 hours before polling day i.e. 23rd February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and 9th March 2023 for state elections (Governorship and Houses of Assembly).
“The implication is that for the next 148 days, political parties, candidates and their supporters are free to traverse the country holding meetings, rallies, processions and door-to-door campaigns.
“They will grant interviews, sponsor indoor and outdoor advertisements and publish other campaign materials. This is often a delicate period characterized by excitement and anxiety,” he explained.