Ï We’re handling 1080 cases of Electoral Offences since 2015- Chairman
Ï Says commission files 124 cases, secures 60 convictions
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the National Assembly and other stakeholders to expedite action on the bill to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission/Tribunal ahead of the 2019 general elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the call in his submissions at the public hearing session organised on the bill by Senate Committee on INEC.
The intervention by the lawmakers is necessary in solving the challenges being faced by INEC on electoral offences or cases which he said added up to 1080 from the 2015 general elections and subsequent bye-elections. He said 124 of the cases were filed and 60 convictions secured in various courts across the country.
The INEC Chairman expressed displeasure that reports of the Electoral Reform Committee (the Uwais Report) 2008, and the Post-election Violence (Lemu Report) 2011 have been left to gather dusts on the shelves.
The two reports, according to him, recommended the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission/Tribunal to address all forms of electoral violence and impunity that have continued to undermine the stability of the nation’s electoral democracy.
The INEC boss said although the Commission has the powers to prosecute, it nonetheless lacked the powers to effect the arrest of electoral offenders, a situation he said, has continued to hamper effective prosecution of offenders.
Yakubu said : “While the Uwais Report was transmitted by the executive to the National Assembly in 2010, the White Paper on recommendations of the Lemu Report directed the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice to take steps towards the establishment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal. “Nearly a decade later, there has been no legislative action on these aspects of the recommendations of the Uwais and Lemu reports, making the present effort by the Senate and the concurrent effort by the House of Representatives a welcome development.
“The failure to systematically and consistently enforce sanctions has encouraged impunity and the violence that often characterised electoral contest in Nigeria, thereby subverting the will of the people and undermining the nation’s electoral democracy.
“At present, INEC is saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offender. Section 150(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) empowered INEC prosecute electoral offenders through its legal officers or any legal practitioner appointed by it without the powers to arrest and investigate thus depending on the police for this purpose. “Without the capacity to make arrest and investigate violations, the prosecutorial role is severely hampered.
INEC cannot effectively focus on this role given its other variegated responsibilities under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)”. Prof Yakubu described the convictions recorded so far as a far cry from the large number of electoral offences that occurred in the period under review.
“There are several factors responsible for the inadequate success, ranging from the huge prosecutorial task, dependence on other agencies for arrest and investigation, time and resources against the backdrop of INEC’s extensive responsibilities of conducting elections and managing pre and post election litigations”, he added.
Chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, in his remarks noted that over the years, statistics showed that the various electoral offences and crimes orchestrated by politicians have cast shadows over the nation’s electoral process. He said, “Subsequently, due to human dynamics, crimes and offences of election tend to evolve.
Therefore, we must look beyond the usual offences and into new trends of wider social electoral offences and crimes that have evaded justice for too long. “Furthermore, it is expected of us to rekindle our thoughts and cast our vast experiences to forge ways of strengthening this bill, as it bears direct consequential effect on our democracy”.