Polls Shift: Opposition Parties Dares INEC, Resume Campaigns

Nigeria’s opposition parties have resolved to resume their campaigns for the postponed 2019 general elections despite the ban on all electioneering by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Citing the provisions of the Electoral Act, which regulates the conduct of polls by INEC and the activities of political parties, the umbrella body of the country’s opposition parties, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said yesterday that the electoral commission’s ban on campaigns for the Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections, was not binding on its members. CUPP argued that in view of the provisions of the Section 99 of the Electoral Act, its 51-member would commence campaigns today.

Also, the dominant opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), toed CUPP’s line yesterday when it announced the reopening of its campaigns for the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.

The PDP said that it reached the decision after due consideration of the provisions of the Electoral Act, adding that its action was further prompted by the postponement of the elections by INEC.

Earlier yesterday, the CUPP through its spokesperson, Mr. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, directed all its members to return to the campaign field and end their activities by midnight of Thursday, 21st February, 2019 as required by law.

He said: “Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act provides that public campaigns shall end 24 hours prior to the day of polling. It is therefore wrong to expect that political parties will stop campaigns on 14th February for polls that will open on 23rd February.”

According to him, it is unlawful and wrong for INEC to curtail the clear intendment of the section of the Electoral Act which is clear and unambiguous.

Ugochinyere said that “campaigning until 24 hours prior to the day of polling is a statutory right of parties and cannot be taken away, curtailed or abridged by any executive fiat.

INEC cannot on its own accord limit the period of campaigns as it is regulated by law. “Member parties are hereby directed to continue campaigns from Monday and focus on voter remobilisation and ensure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is elected and declared winner of the presidential election,” he stated.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had ruled out the resumption of campaigns or collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) during the commission’s meeting with stakeholders after the postponement of the general elections scheduled to hold last Saturday.

Yakubu had declined the proposal of a former minister of Aviation and PDP chieftain, Osita Chidoka, that campaigns begin in the light of the poll shift.

To justify its decision to defy INEC’s directive, the PDP said that INEC breached the law by embarking on a “wrongful administrative prohibition of open campaigns”, arguing that such “administrative pronouncement was erroneous, directly in conflict with the provision of the Electoral Act and is not backed by any other law in the country”.

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