Urges regulatory bodies to sit up
By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA: The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has lamented the growing resort to violence and incendiary remarks by political actors ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, warning that any disruption of the process could alter the electoral timelines thereby leading to a constitutional crisis.
“The Commission has observed with deep concern the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections”, INEC said in a statement by National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye.
According to the Commission, these actions include the destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns, and the use of offensive language.
INEC urged regulatory bodies in the area of security and the media to scale up enforcement in order to safeguard the electoral process.
The electoral umpire said it is important for political parties, candidates, and their supporters to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns, warning that the teg Commission will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.
“Consequently, parties and candidates must on no account underestimate the resolve of the Commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them. The Commission remains determined to conduct peaceful elections in the two States and in the outstanding National and State Assembly bye-elections.
“Political Parties must realize that Edo and Ondo Governorship elections are taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the Commission is working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the Commission and health authorities. With the pandemic taking its toll on the citizenry, the people of Edo and Ondo States must be saved from the added burden of violent and raucous elections. Political Parties must remember that Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections have strict constitutional and statutory timelines and threats of violence or actual violence can disrupt those timelines and create a constitutional crisis.
“The Commission will continue to engage stakeholders in the two States on the need for free, fair, safe, and peaceful elections, given that it has committed enormous public resources in preparing for the elections. Therefore, the Commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors.
“Going forward, the Commission will work with and collaborate with the security agencies to contain all incidents or threats of violence before and during the elections. Regulatory agencies with roles in the elections, especially those dealing with insecurity, hate speech and abuse of mass media, must step up their activities and ensure that all those that break the law are held to account.
“The Commission wishes to reassure the people of Edo and Ondo States of its determination to conduct credible and safe elections in the two states. The Commission shall not hesitate to discontinue the process should the actions of political actors lead to cogent and verifiable threat and/or breakdown of law and order before or during the elections”, the Commission added.