The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has enjoined political parties and candidates standing for election in 2023 in the State, to avoid acts or conduct that could instigate political tensions.
He drew the attention of all political parties and their candidates in the State to the Executive Order 21 prohibiting use of public schools for rallies without permission from the State Commissioner of Education that has been signed into law.
Wike gave the advice in a State-wide broadcast on Friday, in which he emphasised that the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security in the state will not be compromised.
He noted that as the campaign for the 2023 general elections begins, political parties and their candidates need to be reminded of their legal responsibility to foster an enabling civic environment for peaceful campaigns and elections.
He said, “We clearly respect and guarantee the rights of all the political parties, their candidates and their supporters to unfettered political campaigning throughout the State.
“We cherish this sustained atmosphere of peace and security in our State and would therefore count on the cooperation of the political parties and their candidates to ensure that Rivers State remains peaceful and secure for everyone to go about with his or her legitimate endeavours.”
Wike pointed out that as a government, enormous time, effort, and resources have been spent to achieve and sustain the prevailing peace and security across the State.
He, however, stated that his administration was conscious of the supreme duty to protect lives and property in Rivers State.
The governor expressed the need why the forthcoming campaigns should not be characterised by violence, but carried out within legal limits, coupled with a high sense of responsibility.
“Consequently, we will neither allow nor allow any political party, their affiliates, candidates, and their supporters to violate the prevailing peace and security in the State under any political pretext.
“Let me, therefore, enjoin all the political parties and candidates standing in the 2023 general elections to avoid any act or conduct that could instigate political tensions and ignite flames of election violence in the State or any part thereof,” he said.
Wike drew the attention of all political parties and their candidates to the Executive Order 21, that has been signed into law.
He said the Order specifically prohibits the use of public-school buildings, structures for and premises for political rallies without prior permission from the Commissioner of Education.
According to him, “For the avoidance of doubt, the use of public school buildings, structures and premises for political rallies is lawful only when there is compliance with the following conditions:
“(a) obtaining permission from the Commissioner of Education not less than the two (2) weeks before the date of the rally; and
“(b) paying a non-refundable security fee of N5,000,000.00 (five million naira) only.”
Wike explained that the prohibitive Order has been put in place as part of government’s responsibility to protect and secure public school infrastructure from damage or destruction.
He further said it will also prevent the disruption of effective learning activities in State schools as a result of political rallies.
“We have said it before that the law is no respecter of political parties or persons, irrespective of size, status or station.
“We, therefore, wish to reiterate our determination to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any political party or candidate who dares to break the rules by plotting, conniving, instigating or perpetrating any act or conduct that may trigger or contribute to triggering electoral violence and related incidents in the State during the campaigns and the general elections,” the governor said.
Wike warned that any public school administrator who connives with political parties to violate the prohibition against the unlawful use of public school structures and premises for political rallies will be appropriately sanctioned.
He said, “The Commissioner of Education and the Local Government Chairmen have strict instructions to enforce the Executive Order 21 prohibiting the use of public school structures and premises for political rallies.
“Furthermore, owners should refrain from allowing their business premises, hotels, cafeteria, relaxation lounges or private homes from being used for unlawful political gatherings and other criminal acts by party thugs and other criminal elements, including cultists, as we will bring down or seal up any of such buildings, structures or premises without further notice.”