The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged Nigerians to put pressure on the National Assembly to pass the Electoral Offenses Commission to curb electoral offenses in the country.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by the Head, Litigation and Prosecution Department, Alhassan Umar (SAN), made the appeal on Tuesday in Abuja at a round-table on ‘Electoral offenses in Nigeria: Ensuring documentation and effective prosecution’, organized by The Electoral Hub.
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He said that the establishment of the commission would ease prosecution of electoral offenders.
“INEC has gone through a lot of evolution in laws and improvement in other things to make elections free and fair elections but the challenge has been the capacity to prosecute all offenses. We are not suffering from inadequacy of laws but inability to ensure effective prosecution on the part of INEC.”
“Most stakeholders corroborate with INEC for the establishment of electoral offenses commission. What needs to be done is to put pressure on the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the bill such as they have done with the Electoral Act 2022.”
He said that when it is done, impunity that is witnessed regarding commission of electoral offenses will be a thing if the past.
He stressed that the commission is committed to achieve its objective and would use all its powers to ensure that election is conducted free and fair.
The Director of The Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels, said that with its numerous responsibilities, INEC has been unable to make significant efforts in prosecuting electoral offenses due to lack of both human and financial resources.
She said that the round-table was organized due to the importance of addressing election malpractices and irregularities.
She said that one of the key issues around elections was electoral impunity, electoral offenses and the fact that people commit offenses and seem to get away with it because of their status.
“This issue of ‘big man’, you commit electoral offense and you get away with it contributes to the whole issue of voter apathy; the idea that people can do things and get away with whatever they do to truncate democracy.
“It also truncates the electoral process and impacts on the integrity and legitimacy of our elections, so it is important for us to start having these conversations towards having a holistic reform.
“This is whether it is establishing the electoral offenses commission to address investigation and prosecution or to deepen more civil society engagement in ensuing that we tackle this problem of electoral offenses,” she said.
Hamman-Obels said that tackling the issue of electoral offenses would help in curbing violence and improve the participation of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) because the fear of violence had always hindered their participation in elections.
Also, a former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, while stating the types of electoral offenses committed during elections noted that in the past, apprehension of electoral offenders is a major challenge.
Jega said political parties, candidate, election officials and security operatives are culprit in electoral offenses, thus, canvassed for the need of good legal framework and to ensure that the framework is complied with and those who refused, appropriately sanctioned.
“Prosecution becomes very difficult during violation and sometimes it may not commence as getting good evidence may be difficult. Also, INEC has small legal unit and it is difficult for it to get involved in all cases as it is overstretched.”