The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concern about important political actors and stakeholders in the country’s lack of comprehension of the Electoral Act ahead of the 2023 general election.
It warned politicians and political parties in Katsina State against using aggressive and harsh language during campaigns.
Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, mentioned this over the weekend during a discussion with the electoral body about detecting and reducing flashpoints of electoral misinformation and disinformation.
The event, organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) with backing from the European Union (EU), brought together notable figures, including Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, Chairman and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development.
In a keynote address titled “Issues, Perspectives, and Flashpoints of Electoral Misinformation and Disinformation,” Okoye stated that stakeholders have yet to transition from the 2010 Electoral Act to the new 2022 Electoral Act.
He also recognized a lack of awareness of the commission’s processes and procedures by individuals who should know about some of the concerns that the public should be aware of and guided by.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim-Umar, INEC’s Head of Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) in Katsina State, has warned politicians and political parties to avoid using aggressive and abusive language during campaigns in the state.
Ibrahim-Umar issued the warning during a stakeholders’ meeting in Katsina over the weekend.
According to an INEC official, political campaigns should be calm, orderly, and mature.
“Electoral Act 2022 Section 92 (1-6) specifies how political campaigns should be conducted,” he added.
According to him, the legislation states that “a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language, either directly or indirectly, especially if such language is likely to hurt religious, ethnic, tribal, or sectional sensibilities.”
In addition, Electoral Act 2022 Section 92 (1) states that political campaigns, demonstrations, and processions are not permitted in places of religious worship, police stations, or other public offices.
Ibrahim-Umar went on to say that political campaigns should not promote, spread, or criticize political parties, candidates, or their programs or beliefs.
Political parties and candidates must internalize what constitutes campaign laws or limits as defined in the Electoral Act 2022 in order to avoid committing an offense punishable by a fine, jail, or both. Ignorance of the law, as the saying goes, is not an excuse. Transparency in these areas increases contestants’ and voters’ trust in the electoral processes.
According to him, the Electoral Act directs and empowers the Commissioner of Police in each state and the FCT to provide adequate security for the proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions within their jurisdictions.
He added that the police may be assisted by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and any other federal government security agency.
As a result, no registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants, or candidates shall be barred from holding rallies, processions, or meetings for legitimate political purposes at any time.
In addition, the police shall, in consultation with the parties, address any conflict of time and venue that may emerge. A political party shall provide a written notice to the commissioner of police of the state for a political rally or procession, detailing the exact site and time of the rally or procession and vowing peaceful behavior and control against violence or public annoyance.
Political parties must provide information to the commission via the Electoral Officer of the Local Government Area and the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the state. Both should be in hard and soft copy, with details of their political rally or procession itinerary, at least 10 days before the procession or rallies.
He emphasized that for national campaign rallies and processions, the notice must be jointly signed by the political party’s National Chairman and National Secretary.
In the case of a state campaign or procession, he believes the notice should be jointly signed by the party’s state chairman and secretary.