Politicians seeking executive offices bane of elections ― INEC

Impunity by politicians seeking elective executive offices is the bane of elections in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said.

Speaking during an interaction with the media in Lagos on the activities of the INEC in the outgoing year, the commission observed that the INEC was deeply concerned by the brazen acts of impunity by such desperate politicians during elections.

The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, who stood in for his boss, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said the law must take its course against such category of politicians to serve as deterrence.

“The Commission is deeply concerned that elections in Nigeria, especially for executive positions, are increasingly characterised by brazen acts of impunity. The commission plans for all elections to be successfully concluded and for the will of the people to prevail.

“It is thus inconceivable that the INEC will make elaborate arrangement for the deployment of personnel and materials and then turn around to undermine ourselves in the field on Election Day. Impunity has become the bane of our elections.

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“The best antidote to the impunity was the enforcement of sanctions based on the existing laws without fear and favour. Where offenders are not punished, bad behaviour is encouraged,” he warned.

Oyekanmi reiterated that the INEC would continue to work with the National Assembly and all stakeholders for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal as recommended by the Uwias, Lemu and Nnamani Committees.

On the amendment of the Electoral Act, he said: “Media pressure on the National Assembly is needed for a holistic amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 and relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution to block the loopholes being exploited by politicians to perpetrate electoral crimes.

“For instance, the section of the law that stipulates that once a returning officer makes a declaration (even if it is done under duress) only a court of law can upturn, needs to be amended. Some politicians now take advantage of that loophole. They now kidnap a returning officer and force the hapless returning officer to declare them winner at gun point.

Reviewing the conduct of the last general election in the country, Oyekanmi disclosed that a total of 807 post-election petitions were filed at the tribunals, out of which 582 were dismissed, 183 withdrawn by the petitioners, 30 for re-run election and 12 for issuance of certificates of return.

This, according to him, means that the commission is required by order of the tribunals to conduct re-run elections in only 30 constituencies across 12 states in two of the 109 senatorial districts in the country; 13 federal Constituencies out of 360 and 15 state Constituencies out of 991.

“In a majority of cases, elections are to be re-run in just a few polling units, some of them in only one polling unit in the entire constituency,” Oyekanmi said.

While thanking the media for its continued support and cooperation with the commission, Professor Yakubu, however, said though the media practitioners had a responsibility to inform Nigerians, they should always ensure balanced reportage of INEC activities.

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