By Chimezie Godfrey
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has urged party chairmen and candidates to be committed to the peace accord signed on Thursday in Abuja.
Yakubu also urged the party chairmen to also pass the message to all their candidates, members and supporters across the country for compliance.
Recall that the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar,
members of the National Peace Committee (NPC), the Inspector General of Police, Heads of other Security Agencies, the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria and other Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and National Commissioners of INEC witnessed the signing of a peace accord between political parties and their candidates agreeing to issued-based and peaceful electioneering campaign ahead of the 2023 General Election, on Thursday at the International Conference Centre in Abuja
The INEC Chair in his goodwill message delivered during the event, recalled that twice in 2015 and 2019, political parties and candidates have committed themselves to peaceful elections by signing the national Peace Accord organised by the NPC.
He pointed out that the success of the national peace accord at the national level for General Election led to demands by stakeholders for the devolution of the same effort to major off-cycle elections at State level.
According to him, in response, the NPC organised the peace accord ahead of the Governorship elections in Edo in September 2020 and subsequently in four more elections, adding that the result was not only the peaceful conduct of these elections, but the process keeps improving one election after another.
The INEC Boss who applauded the efforts of the NPC, as well as other stakeholders, urged party chairmen and candidates to be committed to the deal, adding that it is not to simply sign the Peace Accord, and that what is more important is to abide by its letter and spirit.
He said,”Today, the NPC is taking another giant step by inviting parties and candidates to commit to peaceful electioneering campaigns. This is important considering the connection between peaceful campaign on the one hand and peaceful and credible elections on the other, The Commission appreciates the positive role of the NPC in the progressive improvement of our elections in Nigeria.
“The Electoral Act 2022 provides for campaign in public by political parties to commence not earlier than 150 days before polling day. Accordingly, campaign by political parties for the 2023 General Election officially commenced yesterday Wednesday 28th September 2022. This will continue until 24 hours before polling day i.e. 23rd February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and 9th March 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 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 characterized 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.
“The 2023 General Election will 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. Every constituency is important. Every election is important. 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.
“The Chairman of the NPC, Your Excellency General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the convener and members of the Committee, the INEC appreciates our partnership with you for peaceful elections and may God continue to bless our efforts.”