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EDO/ONDO POLLS: INEC Cautions Parties on Misuse of Incumbency Power, Others

Ahead of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, the Independent National Electoral Commission has issued a stern reminder to political parties and candidates about the legal requirements for equitable access to public facilities.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun, issued the reminder in a statement on Friday.

Olumekun noted that the commission has observed a persistent issue in Nigeria’s electioneering process: the misuse of incumbency power to block opposition parties and candidates from utilising public facilities for campaign activities.

This misuse includes restricting access to public buildings such as sports stadiums, limiting the use of state-owned media, imposing excessive fees for advertising, and even the removal or vandalism of campaign materials. These actions often lead to violent clashes and disrupt public peace.

“Over the years, a recurring problem in Nigeria’s electioneering process has been the use of the power of incumbency to deny opposition parties and candidates access to public facilities for rallies and other campaign activities.

“These include public buildings such as sports stadiums, open spaces in public places, total denial or restricted access to state-owned media (specifically radio and television stations), the imposition of excessive levies and fees for outdoor and media advertising, and even the removal or vandalisation of billboards and posters.

“These actions often result in violent clashes among party supporters and a breach of public peace,” the national commissioner said.

To address these concerns, Olumekun reiterated that Section 95(2) of the Electoral Act 2022 prohibits the use of state resources to benefit or disadvantage any political party or candidate.

Sections 95(3-5) also mandate equal coverage for all parties and candidates by public media houses.

Violations of these provisions can result in sanctions against the heads and officials of these media organisations as outlined in Section 95(6).

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission wishes to reiterate that Section 95(2) of the Electoral Act 2022 prohibits the use of State apparatus to “the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election”.

“Furthermore, under Section 95(3-5), it is obligatory for public media houses to allot equal coverage and visibility to all parties and candidates. Section 95(6) provides sanctions against heads of public media organisations, their principal officers, and other officials for contravention,” he added.

Olumekun emphasised the importance of adhering to these regulations, adding that INEC has made guidelines for political rallies, processions, and campaigns on its website and social media platforms to ensure clarity and compliance.

“The Commission calls on all concerned parties to adhere strictly to these guidelines and legal provisions,” Olumekun stated.

The Edo governorship election is scheduled for September 21, 2024; while the Ondo governorship poll is scheduled for November 16, 2024.

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