The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on traditional rulers to employ neutrality and impartiality while dealing with political party candidates in their areas.
According to the commission, traditional rulers are at the grassroots level and as such, have an important role to play for a free, fair, credible, transparent, violence-free and inclusive election come 2023.
Ebonyi State monarchs received the call during an interactive session on the 2023 general election with the staff of the INEC led by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Chukwuemeka Joseph at the Traditional Rulers Council Hall, Abakaliki.
According to the REC, with the neutrality of traditional rulers, the electoral activities will be peaceful, environment secured for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in the state.
His words: “These electoral activities need to be carried out in a peaceful and secure environment so that the much desired free, fair, credible and inclusive elections will be achieved in Ebonyi State come 2023.”
He then condemned the destruction of billboards and posters of candidates in the state and restrictions on political parties from using public places for their rallies. According to him, the attack and restrictions are against the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
“Accordingly, we urge you, our Royal Fathers, to appeal to the candidates, their supporters and youths from your communities to conduct their campaigns, rallies and meetings in accordance with the provision of the 2022 Electoral Act and other extant Laws, Rules and Regulations guiding campaigns for the 2023 General Elections.
“Moreover, appeal to them to avoid the use of provocative language and/or indulging in other actions that may likely provoke violent reactions or emotions during their rallies, processions and meetings.
“We want to stress that the destruction of billboards and posters of candidates, as well as preventing political parties from using public places for their rallies are against the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022,” he said.
Chukwuemeka, however, informed the Royal Fathers that the new Electoral Act 2022 has given legal backing to INEC to deploy technology to enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
“On our part in the Commission, we have continued and will continue to exhibit neutrality and level-playing field to all the political parties and their candidates in Ebonyi State,” he added.
The REC also noted that besides campaigns, political rallies and meetings which have commenced in earnest, the 2023 General Elections, will be conducted in the 2.946 Polling Units in the 171 Registration Areas/Wards of the state.
For those that lost or have damaged cards, the REC said “I want to let you know that the commission is working very hard to ensure the completion of printing of the PVCs for those that registered after the first quarter of 2022 as well as those that applied to transfer or the replacement of their lost or damaged cards. We are also working towards seamless collection of PVCs.”
Responding, the Chairman of the South East Traditional Rulers Council and Chairman of Ebonyi State Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Eze Charles Mkpuma, lauded the INEC commissioner and promised that the traditional rulers in the state will do everything possible to maintain peace in their area.