An initiative by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to raise campaign funds using SMS, ringtones, and scratch cards is being scuttled by the National Communications Commission, NCC, the party alleged Wednesday.
At a press conference organized by the party, the APC said that the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP-led federal government is using state-owned institutions to stifle opposition.
“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,” Lai Mohammed, the APC’s National Publicity Secretary said.
On Tuesday, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State had unveiled five platforms through which interested Nigerians can make monetary contributions to the Buhari-Osinbajo campaign.
According to Mr. Fashola, who is the Director of the APC Fund-Raising Committee, the party is partnering with major telecommunication companies in the country – MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Airtel, and Visa phone – to enable party supporters make donations as low as N100.
In addition to banks and e-payments, the fund raising options include downloading ring tones, sending premium text messages to designated numbers, or simply purchasing a recharge card.
“As you can see, apart from the first two platforms (banks and e-payments), the remaining, that is SMS, Ringtones and Scratch Card, are totally dependent on the telecommunications service providers,” said Mr. Mohammed.
“It is no longer news that individuals and organizations 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.”
Mr. Mohammed said that though the fund-raising platforms unveiled by the APC is legitimate, the government is uncomfortable with it.
“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,” he said.
“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?”
The NCC had directed telecommunication service providers to desist from running political/advertisement promotions that would portray them as being partisan, threatening to sanction anyone that flouts the directive.
By issuing the directive, the NCC was seeking to block the APC’s ability to use the platforms of SMS, Ringtones and Scratch Cards to raise funds, according to Mr. Mohammed.
“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.”
Mr. Mohammed described the NCC’s directive to the service providers as an “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).
“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.”