Jonathan is using the communications commission to frustrate our fundraising – APC

As you are very much aware, His Excellency Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, addressed a press conference on Tuesday, 20th January in his capacity as the Director of the Campaign Fund-Raising Committee for our party’s presidential campaign.

The purpose of the press conference was to unveil the five platforms through which interested Nigerians can make monetary contributions to the Buhari-Osinbajo campaign.

The platforms are:

1) Banks

2) E-Payment

3) SMS

4) Ringtones

5) Scratch Card

As you can see, apart from the first two platforms, the remaining, that is SMS, Ringtones and Scratch Card, are totally dependent on the telecommunications service providers.

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 National Communications Commission (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 All Progressives Congress (APC), from using the new platforms of SMS, Ringtones and Scratch Card to raise funds for our electioneering campaign. By the way, legitimate fund raising is the norm around the world to finance electioneering campaign, hence we have not embarked on anything that is out of the ordinary by the measures that have been unveiled by Gov. Fashola.

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 a free, fair and transparent election 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 a credible election when the government of the day routinely uses national institutions as a tool to stifle the opposition?

Gentlemen, the National Communications Commission (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, Ringtones 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 itself 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.

We are all the more appalled that the NCC seems splendidly oblivious of the fact that the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 does not outlaw advertisements. In fact, some of the Act’s subsidiary legislation/ guidelines do permit different advertorial media such as mail, licensee’s website, text messages, and electronic mail (where permitted by recipients),etc.

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 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 aims, or engaging in commercial businesses with political parties, apart from making party political donations – which of course the PDP Federal government so shamelessly breached when it recently collected billions of Naira from many commercial interests.

The PDP 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.

Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity of the APC read this speech at a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday.

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