2015: INEC to clamp down on parties for flouting ban
Police frown at illegal rallies in Oyo, Ondo, Osun
THE whistle for campaigns is yet to go off, but the polity is throbbing with politicians on the hustings.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is worried over the ongoing defiance of campaign ban by some political parties, The Nation has learnt.
It was also learnt that if the parties do not stick to the 2015 poll timetable on campaign, the commission may wield the big stick.
According to the timetable released by INEC, parties are expected to begin campaign from November 16, 2014.
But, following the gale of defections, some parties have embarked on what a source described as “subtle campaign” ahead of the November timeline.
INEC is unhappy with some parties jumping the gun, a source said, pleading not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media.
But the commission is being careful in its conduct to avoid being dragged into partisan politics, it was learnt.
INEC may end up relying on security agencies to checkmate violators of the ban on campaign, the source said.
A top source said: “Well, INEC made its position known last year that parties should desist from campaign. And the timetable is clear that none of the parties can begin campaign till November 16.
“It is worrisome to the commission that some parties are hiding under different platforms to engage in subtle manoeuvres or silent campaign. They are trying to take advantage of the Electoral Act 2010(As Amended).
We are monitoring all parties closely. I can assure you that we will ask security agencies to act when infractions are fully established.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “We do not want any party to jump the gun because it may heat up the polity and such tendency would amount to a violation of the Electoral Act.”
INEC had through Mr. Kayode Idowu, who is the Chief Press Secretary to its chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said:” The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has observed that some politicians and registered political parties have begun unbridled campaign towards the forthcoming general election, thereby heating up the polity.
“This trend is unhealthy and portends ill for the political process. Indeed, it is a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
“The Commission hereby reminds all players of the provision of Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended), which states as follows:
“For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.
“Political parties are advised to note that campaigning outside this provision is a violation of the law, and the Commission will not hesitate to apply appropriate sanctions against culprits as provided by relevant sections of the law.
“Meanwhile, INEC calls on security agents to apprehend violators, whose activities in this regard pose a threat to public order.
“The Commission enjoins all parties to play strictly by the rules, as part of a collective effort to ensure the success of the 2015 elections.”
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh said: “The PDP is not campaigning at all; we are only receiving people who are joining the party.
“And this is not the first time we are doing it. In 2009, we held a rally to welcome our former National Chairman, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, back into the party. We also had a rally to receive the Governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji, into PDP.
“In fact, when people were defecting to the PDP during the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Vice President heeded the committee for such.
“In all our rallies, we have not been presenting any candidate for any elective office. We are organising rallies to receive those defecting to our party. This is exactly the same thing the opposition has been doing.
“Unlike the opposition, we will not ask people to join us, but we are celebrating people joining us.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alh. Lai Mohammed, said: “Let INEC come out clearly and define political campaign and it should be able to apply the sanctions evenly and justly.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said: “There is no hard and fast rule on the law on campaign. Now that some parties are holding rallies, when the leadership of APC starts going round, let no one make noise about it.”
The Police Commands in Oyo, Ondo and Osun states have issued a warning to political parties in the states against organising political rallies without obtaining due police permit.
According to the police, the warning is to forestall any breakdown of law and order, especially as the 2015 elections draw near.
The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, David Omojola, stated this yesterday at a meeting between the Police Commissioners of the three states and leaders of political parties, said it would be illegal for any political party to organise any form of political gathering in the public without informing the police.
Omojola said the police must be informed 48 hours before any gathering or such a gathering will be interrupted by the police.
He explained that the order was not only necessary for the protection of the public, but would also help in averting clashes at the venues which could also lead to violence.
“There are rules and regulations guiding political rallies, road shows and other activities. The force will frown at any act which contravenes the law, and will automatically deal ruthlessly with anybody who acts in concert with others to jeopardise the peaceful democratic structure in place in the state”
The police chief also warned members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORON) and other road transport workers present to act within the ambit of the law and stay off trouble or have themselves to blame.