The Independent National Electoral Commission has accused the two biggest political parties in the country – All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party – of flouting the law barring parties from embarking on campaigns until 90 days to elections.
Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), stipulates: “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day”.
Last week, the APC had accused President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, of breaching the rules on campaigning during a political rally in Enugu and berated the INEC for turning a blind eye. The PDP in return, had accused the opposition party of violating the Electoral Act.
In his reaction to an inquiry by SUNDAY PUNCH on the raging controversy over which party has violated the Electoral Act, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said, “The commission has observed this (illegal campaigns) and we have said it before, all parties are guilty.
“People make electoral statements in churches, in mosques, everywhere across the parties. When parties accuse one another and want to make INEC a tool to be used; that is not being fair to INEC as an impartial regulatory body.
“The position of the commission is that parties are in breach across board. And that is why we have been using moral suasion to say they are breaking these rules. It is in their interest that the games be played by the rules”.
Mr. Idowu also noted that the issue came up in discussions at the just-concluded quarterly meeting between INEC and political parties.
The INEC Chairman’s spokesperson said, “At the last quarterly meeting we held with political parties, they all said, since the law is a bit grey about what exactly constitutes campaign, INEC should come up with regulations specifying the kind of activities that can be taken to be electioneering pre-emptive campaign”.
He, however, explained that not every political activity qualifies to be called a campaign, stressing that political parties were formed to actually engage in political activities.
He went ahead to list some of these activities that do not violate the Electoral Act to include mobilisation of members/ membership drives.
“The question is, what exactly is a campaign? That is what the political parties requested INEC to do at the last quarterly meeting.
“We are working on a guideline. The guidelines will be finalised in consultation with the political parties”, he said.