As politicians and their political parties have begun election campaigns towards the 2023 general elections, a massive enlightenment of the governing rules for electioneering campaigns, under the Electoral Act 2022 becomes imperative.
The Act charges the Nigerias Police Force (NPF) to provide adequate security for proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions, however, the Police may be supported by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and any other security agency of the Federal Government, the law expressly states that no registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate shall be prevented from holding rallies, processions or meetings at any time for their constitutional political purposes, and the Police shall in a consultative manner, resolve any conflict of time and venue between and amongst parties where such arises.
The act also prohibited expressly, a political campaign or slogan that is fouled with abusive languages directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. It also instructed that places designated for religious worship, police station, and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions.
Masquerades shall not be employed or used by any political party, aspirant or candidate during political campaigns or for any other political purpose and a political party, aspirant or candidate of a political party shall not retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interests, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized, trained or equipped for that purpose.
The Act equally do not allow a political party, aspirant or candidate to 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.
A political party, aspirant or candidate who contravenes any of the above provisions commits an offence and is liable on conviction for various degrees of punishment ranging from imposition of fine to imprisonment for a stated term.
The Act clearly proscribes the use of force at a political campaign and clearly states as follows:
A party, candidate, aspirant, or person or group of persons shall not directly or indirectly threaten 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.
Further, a person, print or electronic medium that broadcasts, publishes, advertises or circulates any material for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or the election of particular candidate over the radio, television, newspaper, magazine, handbills, or any print or electronic media whatsoever called within twenty four hours immediately preceding or on polling day commits an offence under this Act.
Where an offence under reference is committed by a body corporate, the principal officers of that body shall be deemed to have equally committed the same offence liable to various degrees of penalties or punishments as stated in the said Act.
However, this 2o23 election is the country’s 7th consecutive general election since the country returned to democracy in 1999. The forthcoming election will coincide with 24 years of uninterrupted democracy, the longest in the country’s history.
Therefore, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) said the 2023 elections will be the most challenging to conduct in Nigeria, saying the raging insecurity, preparedness of the electoral body, INEC, and conduct of presidential candidates will shape the outcome of the polls.
“But, the credibility of the 2023 general election will also depend on the degree to which citizens can vote freely and unencumbered,” CDD said in its report titled, ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT analysis.’
“Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the northwest and southeast. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place.”
While urging the government to invest more in peacebuilding efforts in areas experiencing conflicts, to ensure that such conflicts do not undermine the election, we also advice Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, candidates, their supporters and indeed the generality of the citizenry especially the voters to conduct their persons in tandem with the provisions of the governing rules.