2023 Elections: ‘Campaign inside church or mosque and go to jail’ – INEC to politicians

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned political parties and candidates against the use of masquerades, public facilities and religious centres for campaigns.

The Commission asked political parties to align strictly with the provisions of the Electoral Act to avoid sanctions as stipulated by the Act.  Recall that INEC had fixed September 28 for the commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly, while the elections would hold on February 25, 2023.

Relying on Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Committee on Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, has explained that the law expected political campaigns to be civil and devoid of abuse.

In previous electioneering, some political parties and their candidates were wont to engage in all kinds of theatrics, including the use of masquerades, to entertain the crowd and add colour to their rallies. Some also covertly campaigned in public offices and worship centres, especially churches and mosques, to woo civil servants and worshippers, respectively. But quoting from the provisions of the section, Okoye said, amongst others: “Section 92 of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory that a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.

“Therefore, abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns. Sub-section 3 states that places designated for religious worship, police stations and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions; or to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates, or their programmes or ideologies.

As witnessed in some previous elections where parties hired thugs to repel detractors, Okoye, in reference to sub-section (5) of Section 92, warned parties and candidates against training or enlisting the help or services of individuals or groups for the purpose of displaying physical force, or coercion in a manner that could arouse reasonable apprehension during the campaigns.

Speaking on the need for compliance, the INEC national commissioner pointed out that the Act already provided for sanctions for violators and that adherence to the law should be prioritised by all the parties and candidates.

On those who coerce others to support their candidates or refrain from supporting a particular candidate during campaigns, he added, “Section 93 of the Act prohibits a party, candidate, aspirant or person or group of persons from directly or indirectly threatening 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”. 

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