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Candidates don’t need police permits for rallies- Igini

Former Resident Electoral Commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission, Barrister Mike Igini, has said neither the existing political parties nor their candidates participating in the 2023 general elections need police permits to organise public rallies.

Igini who stated this in a parley with newsmen in Abuja also promised to play a neutral, non-partisan role in the 2023 elections as a private citizen following the expiration of his tenure recently.

He said, “The 2022 Electoral Act has declared emphatically and unequivocally that political parties and their candidates do not need a police permits to organize political rallies. This provision is consistent with a plethora of decisions of superior courts of the land that citizens do not need police permit to organize rallies.

“In fact, subsection (3) made it abundantly clear that notwithstanding any provision of the Police Act, the Public Order Act or any other law, the role of the Police and Civil Defence Corp that has been statutorily mandated to work with police on matters of political rallies is limited to the provision of adequate security only. Therefore, notification to police to provide security does not mean seeking permission from police authorities.”

“With respect to the forthcoming 2023 elections and has been an umpire in the last ten years, l will stick to that disposition and maintain neutrality in all my engagements on issues and matters pertaining to the 2023 elections. But surely, the office of the citizen will be active in partnership but not partisanship with well-meaning Nigerians, to educate voters on why they must vote in the 2023 election.

“l will in the days and weeks ahead through various public lectures invite, educate and guide Nigerian citizens on the various provisions of the 2022 Act and more importantly, what they should know about the various innovations that will secure their votes.”

He continued: “Just last Thursday (22nd September), the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Organized a Roundtable civic public lecture, l participated as one of the speakers on the topic; Electoral Democracy In Nigeria: Challenges And Opportunities in the new 2022 Electoral Act . In this regard, we join in the efforts to clear some of the fears and doubts that are deliberately being created to dissuade or discourage people from participating in elections in the country.”

On the laws guiding political campaigns in the new Electoral Act, Igini said the entire provisions of sections 91,92,93,94,95 and 96 “are intended to deal with the recurrent issues of denial of access to public facilities and media platforms” adding that “they are mandates for unhindered access to the use of state-owned or publicly owned venues and event centres like stadia, civic centres that may be used as venues for rallies or other such political events, as well as access to publicly owned media platforms.

The sections, he stressed, also make provisions for equal airtime parity for candidates at prime time news slots.

“No candidate(s) should be denied access to state-owned facilities for use in the forthcoming political campaigns leading to the 2023 elections because these facilities belong to all Nigerians whether as members of any ruling party or as members of opposition parties. The laws also restrain hate speeches that we are already being treated with gradually, given some volatile comments from supporters of political interest groups trending in the social media,” he added.

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