The All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused the National Communications Commission (NCC) of stifling its electioneering campaigns.
The party said the national agency was preventing its plan to use the Short Messaging Service (SMS), ringing tone and scratch cards to raise funds for its campaigns.
Addressing reporters yesterday in Lagos, APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that Fedreral Government’s promise to ensure free, fair and transparent elections was being undermined through NCC’s action.
The APC spokesman said the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was tactically preventing a tarsparent electoral process.
He said APC’s plans to use SMS, ringing tone and scatch cards, like other individuals or organisations to promote their products, was being blocked by NCC’s directive to service provisers to “avoid running political/advertisement promotions”.
Mohammed said: “It is no longer news that individuals and organisations have been using these new platforms to either pass across messages or promote their products, among others, just like they have done through the traditional platforms, including radio, television and the newspapers.
“Not once has the telecommunications regulatory body, the NCC, prevented these individuals and corporate entities from using the last three platforms for these legitimate publicity and promos.
‘’However, there seems to be an orchestrated plot to prevent us, the APC from using the new platforms of SMS, ringing tones and scratch cards to raise funds for our electioneering campaigns. By the way, legitimate fund raising is the norm around the world to finance electioneering campaigns, hence we have not embarked on anything that is out of the ordinary by the measures that have been unveiled by Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola.’’
He added: “But it seems the government of the day is not comfortable with that. While the PDP-led Federal Government has been mouthing its commitment to free, fair and transparent elections, it has, on the other hand, been doing everything possible to prevent that. Or, how can you have free, fair and transparent elections, if you won’t even allow the opposition to leverage the existing national telecommunications infrastructure to raise funds for its campaign? How can you have credible elections when the government of the day routinely uses national institutions as a tool to stifle the opposition?
“Gentlemen, the NCC has now written to all the service providers to ‘avoid running political/advertisement promotions that will portray them as being partisan’, and has threatened to sanction any service provider that will flout this directive.
“Effectively, the NCC is seeking to block our ability to use the platforms of SMS, ringing tones and scratch cards to raise funds.
“By doing so, the same body, a national institution that is warning service providers against running political/advertisements promotions in order not to be portrayed as partisan, has become a tool of crass partisanship! What an irony.
“It is also necessary to note that no regulatory body has barred the use of the traditional platforms of radio, television and print media from running political advertisements and promotions.
“Our party takes a very strong exception to the contents of the letter sent by the NCC to the service providers as well as the timing of such directive. There can’t be a clearer example of abuse of office. We are extremely concerned by this brazen act of intimidation and regulatory lawlessness towards legitimate businesses providing perfectly legitimate advertisement services, especially when the advertisers have not breached any law or prevented their subscribers from opting out of such services.”
The APC spokesman said the party was appalled that the commission appeared oblivious of the fact that the NCC Act 2003 does not outlaw advertisements.
Mohammed said: “In fact, some of the Act’s subsidiary legislation/guidelines do permit different advertorial media, such as mail, licencee’s website, text messages and electronic mail (where permitted by recipients), among others.
“Telecommunications providers must, therefore, not be bullied by the NCC into infringing upon the rights of their subscribers to have unfettered access to information and services for which they have paid or are paying.
“Let it be crystal clear that we would not let the NCC undermine our democratic rights and freedoms by following the Egyptian model of blocking social media platforms or channels, particularly as the operators are not responsible for social media contents.
“We are not aware of legislation that prevents any commercial entity from advancing any political aim or engaging in commercial businesses with political parties, apart from making party political donations – which of course the PDP-led Federal Government so shamelessly breached when it recently collected billions of Naira from many commercial interests.
“The PDP-led Federal Government has consistently said it is committed to providing jobs for the teeming number of our country’s unemployed, especially the youth. But is it not curious that the same government has now embarked on blocking avenues for jobs to be created? Talk of hypocrisy of the highest order.
“The Federal Government and its parastatals should desist from approbating and reprobating at the same time as this gives the NCC away as a very partisan and biased regulatory agency. The NCC should immediately withdraw its ill-advised, ill-timed and ill-intentioned directive which is solely aimed at preventing us, the APC, from legitimately raising funds to finance our campaign, because we have breached no known law by doing that.”
Source: The Nation