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Political campaigners in churches, mosques risk imprisonment – INEC

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

According to The Punch, the warning is coming just one month before the commencement of the Presidential, and National Assembly campaigns.

INEC, which had fixed September 28 for the commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly, tasked political parties to align strictly with the provisions of the Electoral Act as defined in Section 92 of the Electoral Act, to avoid sanctions as stipulated by the Act.

With the elections slated to hold on February 25, 2023, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Committee on Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, in a recent interview with The Punch said in compliance with the Electoral Act, political campaigns should 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 masqueraders, 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, “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.

“Subsection 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.

“Masqueraders shall not be employed or used by any political party, aspirant or candidate during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.”

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.

In tandem with subsections 7(a)(b) and 8, Okoye stated, “A political party, aspirant or candidate who contravenes any of the provisions of Section 92 of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction in the case of an aspirant or candidate, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.

“A person or group of persons who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant or a candidate in organising or equipping any person or group for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.”

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