•  Keyamo:  Suspension of campaigns illegal

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has urged member parties to resume campaigns ahead of the rescheduled presidential and National Assembly elections, contrary to the directive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

This is coming as the Director of Strategic Communications, All Progressives Congress  (APC) Presidential Campaign Council,  Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), said that INEC has no power to suspend campaigns by political parties, having shifted the date of the presidential election.

Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while answering a question during an interactive session with stakeholders in Abuja on Saturday, said political parties were not permitted to resume campaigns despite the postponement of the February 16 elections.

But in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, CUPP  directed member parties to continue campaigns from today (Monday) and focus on voter re-mobilisation to ensure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is elected and declared winner of the presidential election.

He said: “In view of the provisions of  Section 99 of the Electoral Act , the over 51-member parties of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) hereby direct all members to return to the campaign fields and recommence campaigns and end by midnight of Thursday, February 21, 2019 as required by law.”

“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 statutorily wrong to curtail the clear intendment of this Section of the Electoral Act which is clear and unambiguous.

“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,” CUPP said.

Meanwhile, the Director of Strategic Communications, APC Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo,  has said INEC has no power to suspend campaigns by political parties having shifted the date of the presidential election.

Keyamo, who spoke to THISDAY on telephone yesterday in his personal capacity, said the Electoral Act is explicit on the days allowed for campaigns, which is 24 hours before the election day.

He said: “The Electoral Act says campaign should cease 24 hours to the election day and I think INEC cannot make any regulation different from the provisions of the Electoral law. So, going by the Electoral Act, once you revise the election date, you must also revise automatically the date and schedule for campaigns.

“In fact the campaign schedule revises itself automatically. INEC does not even have to take any action on it. The moment you reschedule the day of the election, you automatically reorder the period of campaigns,” he said.

Keyamo, however, noted that what he offered was a personal opinion, adding that whether or not the party will continue with campaigns will have to be taken by the national leadership.

He said based on the provisions of the Electoral Act, INEC cannot possibly make any case against a political party that proceeds with its campaigns at the tribunal.

“That pronouncement by INEC is null and void, it is illegal,” he stated.