- INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said impacts of electoral reforms are being felt as electorate's votes now count
- Yakubu, however, noted that politicians are now deploying desperate means such as voters inducement
- The INEC boss said the commission is taking steps to address vote buying and selling while urging the government to criminalise the electoral malpractice
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said that the nation’s electoral reforms in the last nine years are yielding impacts as votes now count.
The INEC boss, however, noted that politicians were becoming desperate, engaging in other malpractices such as voters inducement as the new order has prevented them from outright rigging.
Yakubu urged the government to prosecute sponsors of vote buying and selling and their agents, adding that voters inducement should be treated as criminal offences with appropriate punishment.
The Nation reports that the INEC chief said this in Keffi, Nasarawa state at the Anti-corruption Policy Dialogue On Eradicating Electoral Corruption: Focus On Vote Buying which was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Yakubu was represented at the event by the INEC's national commissioner in-charge of information and voter education, Festus Okoye.
His speech reads partly: “You can see that our elections are getting better and the politicians are getting more desperate. And these accounts for some of the challenges we have.
“It is evident that the innovations and improvements in our electoral processes since 2010 have somehow put a check on ballot box snatching, ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, or falsification of results, diversion of election materials, hijack of election personnel, falsification of election results and violations of the electoral laws have become considerably addressed.
“As votes start to count, as the election are determined solely by the electoral votes, politicians now go directly to the polling units to induce the voters. And I say that the votes are beginning to count.
“Voter inducement before and after voting is manifested in two ways. First is attempts by politicians and their agents to determine the choice of voters by offering them monetary or material rewards. Second is the attempt by prospective voters to demand such gratification in order to vote.”
Yakubu also highlighted two steps the electoral body under his watch is taking to address vote buying and selling.
“In response to these challenges, INEC has adopted the following measures: changing and enhancing the secrecy of votes through polling unit management and locating the voting unit boxes outside for the view of party agents and the voters,” he said.
On the laws to apply on offenders, he said: “The provisions of sections 124, 125 and 129, 1 and 130 of the Electoral Acts 2010 as amended provide us with clear indications of the illegality of vote buying and selling.
“While section 124 stipulates offences relating to bribery and conspiracy, section 125 reinforces the requirements of secrecy in voting. Section 124 subsections 18 (d) and 13(a) simply spelt out what constitutes electoral offences and undue influence with specific reference to vote buying and selling. The punishments for contravening these provisions as stipulated in sections 129 and 130 respectively.
“Beyond the provisions of the Electoral Act legal provisions due to bribery and corruption particularly the enabling Act of the ICPC, EFCC and FIRS, as well as the administration of justice Act makes voters’ inducement and vote buying a criminal act.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the SGF, Olusegun Adekunle, also commented on the vote buying menace.
He said: “It is disheartening to know that vote buying and other forms of electoral corruption and violence in the last elections have cast doubts on the credibility and integrity of the country’s electioneering process.”
He added that hate speech is another tool threatening Nigeria's elections.
“Hate speeches too, have become a tool for opponents to attack each other because of conflicting situation," he said.
Also speaking at the event, the ICPC chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that in the next few years, the commission will be combining aggressive enforcement and prevention measures, with developing knowledge driven policies that would guide the long-term sustainability of the war against corruption in the country, including political corruption and vote buying.
He said: “The lCPC looks forward to collaboration with INEC to intensify enforcement of provisions of the Electoral Act dealing with electoral offences. Only collaboration with INEC can remove the legal hamstring such as is found in section 149 and 150 of the Electoral Act.”
The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, who was represented by his secretary, Olukayode Olanipekun, also vows to always work with security operatives and the ICPC to rid Nigeria's elections of vote buying and selling.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that Attahiru Jega, the immediate past chairman of INEC, accused university lecturers of conniving with politicians to undermine the 2019 general elections.
The former INEC boss criticized the university lecturers for undermining the integrity and outcome of the general elections.
Jega, a former lecturer, lamented those he was accusing helped in facilitating a faulty recruitment process of the political class during the election adding that as a result, they betrayed the confidence the electoral body reposed in them.
Speaking at the 15th yearly conference of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Nigeria at BUK, Jega recalled how prominent politicians in Kano penetrated the academia to commit irregularities.
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