INEC threatens to sanction Jonathan, Atiku, others over early campaigns

INEC chairman, Atahiru Jega.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has again warned political parties, aspirants and organisations to desist from embarking on early campaign in violation of the nation’s electoral law.

In a statement by its Secretary, Augusta Ogakwu, the Commission said, “Henceforth, (INEC) would take necessary action against such associations, corporate bodies, individuals, political parties, media or such communication agencies, social media, candidates or aspirants who contravene the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) and/or Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) on public campaign/rally and procession.”

Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) says, “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.”

INEC had in the past repeatedly warned the politicians via similar statements and at different fora not to engage in campaigns in contravention of the electoral laws.

In one of the statements, the Commission threatened to prosecute any politician found violating the laws.

In the latest statement dated September 26 and titled “Caution On Illegal Public Political Broadcast And Campaign,” the Commission said its attention had been drawn to the insistent illegal campaigns carried out by associations, corporate entities, individuals, public and private media and other communication agencies in Nigeria, which were in contravention of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) on limitation of political broadcasts.

The statement, which was addressed to all national chairmen of registered political parties, corporate entities, associations and the general public, reminded that Section 99 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) prohibited broadcast and political campaign earlier than 90 days before polling day.

It added, “Relevant extracts of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) have since been reproduced and circulated by the commission at public places, to media outfits, the Ministry of Information, National Orientation Agency, NOA, National Communication Commission, NCC, Head-quarters of Inter-party Advisory Council, IPAC, Headquarters of State, FCT, Local Government Area offices of INEC and the Federal Ministry of Environment for their information and proper guidance.”

Nigerian politicians on different platforms and their supporters have however violated the electoral law by not only organising rallies, but also mounting bill boards and pasting posters at strategic locations.

In the last two years various groups have emerged either urging President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election or announcing his readiness to do so.

Mr. Jonathan’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been organising what it described as “unity” rallies across the six geo-political zones during which it receives defectors from other parties.

Similarly, a group, Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, is also organising rallies in the zones urging the president to run while several groups under the aegis of Goodluck Support Group, GSG, held a grand rally at Eagle Square three weeks ago.

Nigeria’s main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is not left out as it also held similar events to receive defectors.

Only last week, a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, announced his plan to contest the presidency on APC platform at a ceremony attended by his supporters drawn from across the country.

And on Tuesday, a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, hosted about 60 of his support groups in Abuja during which he indicated his wish to contest the presidential election for the fourth time.

On its part, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, recently organised a rally in Awka, the Anambra State capital, where it adopted Mr. Jonathan as its candidate for the 2015 presidential election.

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