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INEC warns against campaigns in churches, mosques, use of masquerades

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Exactly one month to the commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has warned political parties and candidates against the use of masqueraders, public facilities and religious centres for campaigns.

The commission asked political parties to align strictly with the provisions of the Electoral Act to avoid sanctions as stipulated by the Act. INEC had fixed September 28 for the commencement of campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly, while the elections would hold on February 25, 2023.

Relying on Section 92 of the Electoral Act, 2022, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Committee on Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, in a recent interview with our correspondent explained that the law expected political campaigns to be civil and devoid of abuse.

In previous electioneering, some political parties and their candidates were wont to engage in all kinds of theatrics, including the use of masqueraders, to entertain the crowd and add colour to their rallies. Some also covertly campaigned in public offices and worship centres, especially churches and mosques, to woo civil servants and worshippers, respectively.

In previous campaigns, some political parties engaged thugs to ensure orderliness as well as prevent political enemies from disrupting their rallies.

In reference to Section 6 of the Act, however, Okoye added, “A political party, aspirant or candidate shall not keep or use armed private security organisation, vanguard or any other group or individual by whatever name called for the purpose of providing security, assisting or aiding the political party or candidate in whatever manner during campaigns, rallies, processions or elections.”

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Imprisonment awaits offenders

Speaking on the need for compliance, the INEC national commissioner pointed out that the Act already provided for sanctions for violators and that adherence to the law should be prioritised by all the parties and candidates.

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In tandem with subsections 7(a)(b) and 8, Okoye stated, “A political party, aspirant or candidate who contravenes any of the provisions of Section 92 of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction in the case of an aspirant or candidate, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.

“A person or group of persons who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant or a candidate in organising or equipping any person or group for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.”

On those who coerce others to support their candidates or refrain from supporting a particular candidate during campaigns, he added, “Section 93 of the Act prohibits a party, candidate, aspirant or person or group of persons from directly or indirectly threatening any person with the use of force or violence during any political campaign in order to compel that person or any other person to support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidate.

“A political party, candidate, aspirant, person or group of persons that contravenes the provisions of Section 93(1) of the Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction in the case of a candidate, aspirant, or person or group of persons, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N500,000 for any subsequent offence.”

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Electoral materials procurement

Meanwhile, about 181 days to the general elections, starting with presidential and National Assembly polls scheduled to hold on February 25, INEC said tender had begun for the procurement of sensitive materials for the elections, save for those that needed to be procured close to the polls.

The timetable released by the commission also indicated that governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections would be held on March 11, 2023.

When asked if the commission had commenced the procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, Okoye said, “Our zonal stores have started receiving the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

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“We have determined the reusable materials and are making up for the shortfalls. Major and minor renovations are going on in our local government offices. Tenders are on for the procurement of sensitive materials. There are sensitive materials that must wait and be produced or procured close to the election period.”

On whether or not the commission had received from the Federal Government all the funds it needed to prosecute the elections, Okoye affirmed that INEC had the funds it needed for the activities within this period, adding, “We are confident that the commission will continue to receive funds for its various activities as and when due.”

Ballot papers printing

As part of preparations for the elections, INEC says it cannot print the ballot papers yet until the clean-up of the voter register is concluded, which will enable it to know the actual number of registered voters. The figure, it affirmed, would inform the quantity of ballot papers to be printed.

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Okoye, responding to a question on the printing, said, “The commission cannot print the ballot papers at this point. The commission must be sure of the approximate number of registered voters before printing ballot papers.

“This means the commission must complete the clean-up of the voters’ register and display the register for claims and objections before making a determination on the number of voters that will participate in the election.”

He explained further that the commission would later invite the political parties participating in the elections to inspect their identities as they would appear on the ballot papers.

Okoye stated, “The commission must also design the ballot papers. Coterminous to this, section 42(3) of the Act provides that the commission shall, not later than 20 days to an election, invite in writing, a political party that nominated a candidate in the election to inspect its identity appearing on samples of relevant electoral materials proposed for the election and the political party may state in writing within two days of being so invited by the commission that it approves or disapproves of its identity as it appears on the samples.” (PUNCH)

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Ex-Imo gov, Emeka Ihedioha resigns from PDP

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Ex-Imo gov, Emeka Ihedioha resigns from PDP
Emeka Ihedioha

A former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, has resigned his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

In his resignation letter addressed to the PDP chairman in Mbutu Ward, Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of the state, Ihedioha cited a misalignment between his personal beliefs and the current trajectory of the main opposition party.

The former governor expressed his dedication to the advancement of democracy and good governance in the country despite his decision to step away from PDP.

According to Ihedioha, having been a member of the party since its inception in 1998, he has contributed immensely to the growth and evolution of the party.

The former governor, however, lamented recent developments within the PDP, stating that it has deviated from its core principles.

He voiced concerns over the party’s inability to enact internal reforms, uphold its own regulations, and effectively oppose the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

“Regrettably, in recent times, the party has taken on a path that is at variance with my personal beliefs. Despite my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly, no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.’

“It is in the light of the foregoing, that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the People’s Democratic Party effective immediately.

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“While the decision was difficult to take, I, however, believe that it is the right one. Despite this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria”, the letter added.

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Protest breaks out in Ondo over APC Gov Primary

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Protest breaks out in Ondo over APC Gov Primary
• Protesters demand cancellation of APC ward primaries in Ondo State on Sunday, April 21, 2024

Some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akure, the Ondo State capital, took to the streets on Sunday to protest what they termed irregularities and biased conduct of the ward primaries across the state on Saturday.

The ward primaries meant to produce the governorship candidate of the party for the November 16, 2024 governorship election in the state has been marred with non-availability of election materials.

The protesters called for the cancellation of the ward primaries.

The protesters stormed the APC state secretariat in Akure to display their displeasure to the alleged irregularities in the conduct of the ward primaries across the 203 wards of the state.

Most of them are supporters of one of the aspirants, Olushola Oke, and they carried different placards calling on the national secretariat to remove the chairman of the primary election committee and Kogi State Governor, Usman Ododo.

They described the process as a daylight robbery and urged the national secretariat of the APC not to allow the state to be embroiled in crisis.

One of the protesters claimed no ward primaries were held, insisting that the guidelines given by the national secretariat of the party were not followed as the committee did not distribute materials to any wards.

The party members warned of likely consequences if an unpopular candidate is imposed on them as it could affect the chances of the party in the governorship election.

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Ododo had on Saturday announced that polls would be conducted in all 13 wards of Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state by noon on Sunday.

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“Having received reports of the primary election from the 203 wards in the 18 local governments of Ondo State, the primary election committee has decided that election will be conducted in all the 13 Wards of Okitipupa local government with total validated registered members of 9,515, because of validated reports that the exercise did not hold in the local government due to late arrival of materials and personnel as a result of logistics challenges.

“Election in Okitipupa local government shall be conducted 12 noon on Sunday 21st April 2024. The final collation of the results will be done thereafter,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, two aspirants and agents of two other contestants raised concerns about the conduct of the primary.

They alleged that based on the conduct of the exercise, plans were made to favour certain aspirants.

Olugbenga Edema, who is one of the 16 aspirants in the race for the APC ticket, decried delays in the distribution of materials and called on the party to investigate the process.

Rotimi Williams, the agent of Oke, took a similar position.

Shola Ajisafe, the agent of Adewale Akinterinwa, backed the narrative by Edema and Willams.

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“My people have been calling me. No material has been distributed to them,” Ajisafe who is from Ondo North said, accusing Governor Ododo of working in favour of a candidate. (Channelstv)

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PDP caucus backs Damagum to continue as Acting National Chair

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PDP caucus backs Damagum to continue as Acting National Chair
• PDP National Chairman Umar Damagum
The current acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Umar Damagum, will continue in that capacity until another National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that will hold after the one slated for today, Thursday April 18, 2024.

This formed part of the resolution of the PDP caucus meeting on Wednesday night.

PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, said the caucus resolved that all reconciliation committees of the party be reconstituted to resolve grievances affecting the unity of the party.

Asked what the caucus discussed about issues regarding the party’s chairmanship position, he said it is an issue that the NEC of the party will discuss but said the organ resolved that Damagum continue as chairman till the next NEC after today’s.

The meeting was attended by the former Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; and the 2023 presidential flag bearer of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar.

Damagum is suspected to be an ally of Wike, who is the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The caucus also directed that the party should revisit the Rivers State Caretaker Committee List, and find a political solution to the crisis in the state.

The caucus meeting held less than 24 hours to theNEC meeting of the party, which has been scheduled for today (April 18, 2024) to discus issues regarding the leadership of the party and also to ractify decisions by various organs of the party.

The PDP is facing a leadership crisis, with members urging the resignation of the Damagum-led NEC. Meetings like the NEC and the party’s Board of Trustees have been arranged to address these issues.

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Meanwhile, Senator Iyorcha Ayu has withdrew his appeal, which sought to challenge his removal as the party’s national chairman. His move is also believed to be connected with the party’s upcoming National Executive Meeting.

SEE ALSO:  Ex-Imo gov, Emeka Ihedioha resigns from PDP

Ayu was suspended by the executive committee of the PDP in Igyorov ward in the Gboko Local Government Area of Kogi State in 2023 over alleged anti-party activities but he had approached the court to challenge his removal.

However, a Federal High Court in June last year affirmed the decision of the party to sack Senator Ayu, a judgement that led to an appeal, which he has now withdrawn.

FULL TEXT: Communique Issued At End Of PDP NEC Meeting

Communique Issued at the end of the 98th Meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Today, Thursday, April 18, 2024.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great Party, at its 98th meeting today, Thursday, April 18, 2024, thoroughly assessed the State of affairs of the Nation and the Party and resolved as follows:

1. NEC commends all the Organs of the Party for their collective resilience, steadfastness and commitment towards the unity, stability and sustenance of our great Party despite dauting challenges.

2. NEC also commends members of the PDP, with particular reference to the youths and women for their courage in resisting the antics of the divisive and anti-people All Progressives Congress (APC), especially, its desperation to emasculate the opposition and foist a one-Party State on our nation.

3. NEC expresses concern over the ill-implemented policies of the insensitive APC administration, leading to worsening insecurity, harrowing economic hardship, soaring unemployment rate, high cost of food and other necessities of life with pervading misery and despondency across the country.

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4. NEC expresses serious apprehensions over the spate of acts of terrorism and violence including the escalated cases of mindless killings, mass abduction of innocent Nigerians and marauding of communities in various parts of the country.

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5. NEC condemns the insensitivity, nonchalance, incompetence and arrogance in failure of the APC administration which continues to conduct itself in a manner that shows that it has no iota of interest or commitment towards the wellbeing of Nigerians.

6. NEC also condemns the creeping totalitarianism and tendencies towards a One-Party State which is inimical to the peace, stability and corporate existence of our nation as well as the development of Democracy and good governance in the country.

7. NEC, after due consideration demands that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should urgently convene a special National Security Council meeting to proffer a holistic solution and measures to curb the disturbing insecurity with its attendant negative consequences on our national life.

8. NEC also demands that President Tinubu should immediately rejig his Economic Team to bring in persons of proven integrity and competence without bias and vested interest to assist in repositioning the economy.

9. NEC further demands that the Federal Government should review all policies and programmes which are stifling the economy with suffocating effect on the lives of citizens; including the increase in price of fuel without cushioning measures, hike in electricity tariff, increased taxation and implementation of adverse fiscal policies.

10. NEC charges all Organs, leaders, critical stakeholders and indeed all members of the PDP to close ranks, put aside every personal or group interests and work together in the overall effort to reposition and return the PDP to power at the center in the interest of the Nigerian people.

11. Consequently, NEC received and approved the Timetable for Party Congresses across the country.

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12. NEC also approved the Reconstitution of the Party Disciplinary and Reconciliation Committees to further ensure the stability of the Party.

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13. Similarly, NEC approved the extension of the life of the Party Constitution Amendment Committee to allow it to receive new amendment proposals for inclusion in its deliberation and final report for consideration by NEC.

14. NEC commended the efforts of the National Working Committee in its effort towards rebranding the Party including the new look PDP Logo which is widely accepted by Party members and Nigerians in general.

15. NEC charges all Party members to continue to work together for the success of the PDP for the benefit of Nigerians and sustenance of Democracy in our country.

Thank you for listening.

Hon. Debo Ologunagba
National Publicity Secretary

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