The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to monitor political parties’ campaigns and expenses for the 2023 general elections to ensure compliance with the laws.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at the signing of the peace accord for the peaceful campaign organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) on Thursday in Abuja.
Yakubu said that would be done to ensure that parties shun abusive language and comply with spending limits for elections.
He said the Electoral Act 2022 provided for campaigns in public by political parties to commence not earlier than 150 days before polling day of which the national elections had officially commenced on Sept. 28.
He added that the campaign would continue until 24 hours before polling day (Feb 23, 2023) for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly), and March 9, 2023, for state elections (Governorship and Houses of Assembly).
“The implication is that for the next 148 days, political parties, candidates and their supporters are free to traverse the country holding meetings, rallies, processions and door-to-door campaigns.
“They will grant interviews, sponsor indoor and outdoor advertisements and publish other campaign materials. This is often a delicate period characterised by excitement and anxiety.
“In line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and in our determination to play our role as a regulator, the Commission will vigorously monitor compliance.
“To ensure that parties shun abusive, intemperate or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns.
“Similarly, the Commission will also closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending under the Electoral Act. There are sanctions provided by law.
“Political parties and candidates should study and familiarise themselves with the electoral legal framework to avoid any infraction of the law and the unhappy consequences that will follow any act of misdemeanour.’’
Yakubu, therefore, urged all political party candidates to show appreciation to the work of the NPC by abiding and showing commitment to the peace accord that they signed.
“Therefore, the commitment to peaceful and issue-based electioneering campaign should resonate beyond the 18 Party Chairmen and Presidential candidates present here today.
“It is not enough to simply sign the Peace Accord. What is more important is to abide by its letter and spirit.
“You should similarly pass the message to all your candidates, members and supporters across the country for compliance.
“This will be your own way of showing appreciation for the work of the NPC and an affirmation of your contribution to electoral peace in Nigeria.”
Yakubu disclosed that the 2023 General Election would be conducted for 1,491 constituencies nationwide made up of one Presidential constituency, 28 Governorship elections, 109 Senatorial Districts, 360 Federal constituencies and 993 State Assembly constituencies.
He commended the Chairman of the NPC, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as the convener and members of the Committee, saying INEC appreciated their partnership for peaceful elections.
He said that the signing of the peace accord, which started in the 2015 general elections, has continued to yield positive results.
“The result is not only the peaceful conduct of these elections, but the process keeps improving one election after another,’’ Yakubu said.
The Head, Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Amb. Samuela Isopi urged Nigeria to continue to take decisive steps to seek a further consolidation of democracy, and peaceful, inclusive, credible and transparent elections.
Isopi said that as the largest democracy in Africa, Nigerian elections do matter, not only for Nigeria but also for the future of democracy in West Africa and the continent.
“Nigeria has an opportunity to lead to contribute to reversing the trend of undemocratic change of power and to its leadership, consolidate democracy in the region and beyond.
“As leaders of political parties and presidential candidates, you have a vital role to play in ensuring peaceful elections in engaging in peaceful and issue-based campaigns, in taking a firm stance against violence, against hate speech, against misinformation and fake news.
“ As you well know, in politics, words, do count and as political leaders, you are role models for your candidates, for your supporters, for voters and for citizens,’’ Isopi said.
The ambassador called for the needed support to INEC to conduct credible elections, while also calling on security agencies to demonstrate neutrality and professionalism toward the conduct of credible elections.
“We have to keep the neutrality and guarantee the safety of all campaigners and voters and in particular of women, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups,’’ Isopi said
She also called on the media as watchdogs and public educators to adhere to their own common code of conduct.
Isopi expressed the commitment and support of the international community, especially the European Union and its member states in particular to peaceful elections in Nigeria.
“But also to stress our impartiality. We are not here to support any particular party or any particular candidate.
“We are here at your invitation to support the process through international expertise, independent observation and support for key institutions.
“We are committed to continuing supporting the consolidation of the democratic process in Nigeria with our technical support, sharing of experience and good practices and political engagements.’’