A prominent Non-Governmental organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to stop President Muhammadu Buhari; 36 state governors and ministers from illegally deploying public fund to run electoral campaigns.
HURIWA SAID IF AFTER 72 hours the INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION fails to take verifiable and transparent step to stop these abuses of the extant electoral Act, it will institute a litigation to compel INEC to do same.
National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf in a statement averred as follows:
“The Electoral Act 2010(As Amended) seeks to provide for a fair playing ground for all political parties and their candidates. It discourages and proscribes such circumstance that gives “peculiar advantage” to one political party or candidate over another. Hence right from the outset section 82 forbids the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from registering symbols which portray the Coat of Arms of the Federation, the Coat of Arms of any other country or a device or emblem which in the opinion of the INEC is normally associated with the official acts of Government, any of the Armed Forces of the Federation of Nigeria or the Nigeria Police Force or other uniformed service, the regalia of a chief, any tribe or ethnic group, any religion or cult.
Thus the Electoral Act limits the amount of spending for candidates of political parties into various elective positions as stipulated in section 90 of the Electoral Act, stipulates that “masquerade funds” (or anonymous donations) are not acceptable as donations likewise foreign.
The guiding provision of the Electoral Act as regards use of public resources is Section 100. Section 100(1) makes an omnibus provision for campaign to be within the rules and regulation provided by the INEC. More specifically and directly however, section 100(2) of the Electoral Act clearly states that State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election. The purport of this section is to make a fair playing ground for all candidates and political parties. It can be inferred from the subsection and subsequent provisions that the Act proscribes the use of any public resources which only one candidate or political party has access to or is entitled to.
Subsection (3) equally provides that media time shall be allotted equally among political parties and candidates at similar hours of the day and by subsection 4 equal airtime for electronic media shall be allotted to all political parties or candidates during prime times at similar hours each subject to payment of appropriate fees. Subsection 6 provides that a violation of the subsection 3 and 4 by any public media is an criminal offence.
It does appear most lucidly from the practice of politicians occupying public office and the functioning of state or public apparatuses that the foregoing provisions of the Electoral Act is more observed in breach. It is needless to say that the security operatives have become stooges of political office holders or their godfathers. They often forbid some political campaign rallies while they do not only openly maximally secure the processions or campaign venues of some other political parties or candidates but also openly show affection and attachment to their cause and in disapproval of any contrary views. A lot of times framing up followers of those they perceive as opponents of their political parties or preferred candidates, arresting and detaining them leading to a lot of some frivolous charges to contribute to the congestion of our prisons and courts’ diaries and list.
Political office holders often and always during elections campaign travel in the convoy of official government vehicles and officials with all the paraphernalia of their offices as if their political party campaign is a state function for which state resources are to be deployed.
It is often the case that public media houses devote so much time to the party in power and almost no time at all to the other parties except those with high political influence who can equally maneuver their ways. An indirect means deployed by some of the publicly owned media houses is to continuously play jingles of the alleged achievements of the government in power.
Again a lot of times and that most recently, some of the most important apparatuses of the State that should serve to sanitize the society such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), to mention a few, have been deployed to persecute some individuals to the benefit of the party in power.
These account for why a lot of appointments and dismal from political offices are made prior to and after elections. It is general knowledge that political officer holders and controllers of state apparatus usually appoint those who have sympathy for their cause in terms of party or candidature to man strategic offices directly connected with finance in order to have free access to funds during their campaign, funds usually disbursed under some bogus heads or members of the judiciary with whom they have some affiliation to aid the election petition of their parties.
These are all misuse of state apparatus and abuse of office which is not only illegal but also criminal.”