A former Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, for Akwa Ibom State, Barrister Mike Igini, has stated that by the terms of the Electoral Act, no political party or candidate should be refused access to state-owned facilities for campaigns and rallies.
He started this while fielding questions from newsmen. Igini, who spent ten years working for the Independent National Electoral Commission, further asserted that the 2022 Electoral Act expressly and categorically provided that political parties and their candidates do not need to obtain police permission to hold political rallies.
Igini, by his vast experience on election matters, called for strict adherence to laws guiding political campaigns, which will kick off on 28th September.
According to him, “Thematically, the laws that regulate and guide political campaigns are very clear and unambiguous and should be strictly adhered to during the campaign periods.
“In fact, the entire provisions of sections 91,92,93,94,95 and 96 are intended to deal with the recurrent issues of denial of access to public facilities and media platforms, hence they are mandatory for unhindered access to the use of state-owned or publicly owned venues and event centres like stadia, civic centres that may be used as venues for rallies or other such political events, as well as access to publicly owned media platforms and also provisions for equal airtime parity for candidates at prime time news slots.
“Hence, no candidates should be denied access to state-owned facilities for use in the forthcoming political campaigns leading to the 2023 elections because these facilities belong to all Nigerians, whether as members of any ruling party or opposition parties.
“The laws also restrain hate speeches that we are already being treated with gradually given some volatile comments from supporters of political interest groups trending in the social media.”
He expressed concern over allegations from many regions of the country that political party candidates are being refused access to government facilities for campaigns and that police are blocking the conduct of political gatherings.
He said, “I have read some of these reports, and it’s quite unfortunate that political intolerance is already being exhibited, and more disturbing if not worrisome is the report concerning the action of policemen that are statutorily mandated under the new Act to always provide adequate security for political rallies and processions for political parties and their candidates upon notice of such rallies.
“In fact, section 91 emphatically says the Commissioner of Police in each state shall provide adequate protection for political rallies and shall be supported by personnel of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corp.
“ln fact, I’m shocked to read some of these reports that you have referenced because subsection (4) of this section itself says and l quote “No registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate shall be prevented from holding rallies, procession or meeting at any time for their constitutional political purposes and the police shall resolve any conflict of time and venue between and amongst parties where such arises in a consultative manner and not an imposition.
“Barring whatever l may have omitted, those are words of the 2022 Electoral Act that must be adhered to.”
When asked to clarify what he meant when he said that no police permission was required to organise political procession or rallies, he responded, “Look, it’s not what I’m saying but that the 2022 Electoral Act has declared emphatically and unequivocally that political parties and their candidates do not need police permission to organise political rallies.
“This provision is consistent with a plethora of decisions of superior courts of the land that citizens do not need police permission to organise rallies, in fact, subsection (3) made it abundantly clear that notwithstanding any provision of the Police Act, the Public Order Act or any other law, the role of the Police and Civil Defence Corp that has been statutorily mandated to work with police on matters of political rallies is limited to the provision of adequate security only.
“Therefore, notification to police to provide security does not mean seeking permission from police authorities.”