Electoral offenders treated with kid gloves, INEC chairman laments

National chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has said electoral offenders in Nigeria were not being given swift prosecution by the nation’s law enforcement and prosecution agencies.

He expressed the concern on Tuesday in his opening remarks at an Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security held in Abuja.

Professor Yakubu who noted that decisive action against proven misconduct was one of the surest ways to instil sanity in the electoral process appealed to the national assembly to expedite action on several bills, pending before it to deal with electoral offenders in the country.

The INEC chairman specifically called for the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunal.

He said: “Proven misconduct must be dealt with according to the law. This is one of the surest ways to address impunity and instil sanity in the electoral process.

“​At the same time, we must cast our nets wide. I am happy to note that the Nigeria Police Force made several arrests of alleged electoral offenders during the general election. We have since requested the Police to avail us of the case files so that we can initiate their immediate prosecution.

“While we will continue to do our best working with the security agencies in this regard, I wish to renew the call for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal. We shall work with the National Assembly to ensure the passage of a private members Bill sponsored in the Senate by the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari and in the House of Representatives by Hon. Francis Charles Uduyok.

“Their effort was reinforced by an Executive Bill submitted to the National Assembly arising from the report of the Ken Nnamani Committee on Electoral Reform. The truth is that democracy and credible elections will be deepened where electoral offenders are swiftly prosecuted. For instance, in the recent general elections in South Africa held in May 2019, some electoral offenders were arrested and swiftly charged to court even before the election was concluded.”

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On the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states slated for November 16, the INEC chairman raised concern over the safety of the Commission staff and the electorate as he noted that the two states were prone to violence.

Professor Yakubu, however, applauded concerted efforts by concerned stakeholders in the two states towards ensuring peaceful elections in the two states. He also assured that his Commission was on top of the logistics to make the electoral process in the two states hitch free.

“As we review the 2019 general elections, we must also pay attention to the forthcoming off-season elections. The Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections are scheduled to hold on Saturday 16th November 2019. Given the history of political violence, resulting in the Governorship elections declared inconclusive in the two States in 2015, the Commission is concerned about the safety of our personnel, properties and the sanctity of the electoral process.

“The politicians in Bayelsa and Kogi must shed off the toga of political violence associated with elections in the two states. I am glad to note the peace efforts in Bayelsa State through a broad-based Stakeholders Summit on Violence-free elections. I am also glad that some concerned leaders in Kogi State are considering a similar initiative.

“I want to assure all well-meaning leaders of Bayelsa and Kogi States that the Commission will work with them to ensure peaceful and credible polls. I also wish to assure all voters in the two states that INEC will protect the integrity of the electoral process and ensure that the will of the people prevails. We will also work with the security agencies to ensure professionalism and neutrality in strict compliance with their rules of engagement.”

The Deputy Inspector General, Operations Abdulmajid Ali, who represented the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu expressed the Police readiness to prosecute electoral offenders.

Ali disclosed that during the last general elections, 58 high profile arrests were made during the presidential and national assembly elections.

“Out of this 58 arrests, 39 were conclusively investigated and concluded and charged to courts while 19 are pending.”

He commended other security agencies, particularly the military for the cooperation given to the Police and INEC during the last election and expressed its readiness to discharge its duty, conscientiously in Kogi and Bayelsa.

“I want to also assure that the Police and other security agencies are ever ready to put more efforts in ensuring that the forthcoming governorship elections will be free fair, and credible.”

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