Stakeholders seek establishment of electoral offences commission ahead of 2023 Elections
The Electoral Hub, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Prof. Attahiru Jega, the former chairman of INEC, have all called for the formation of a National Electoral Offences Commission ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
They made the call on Tuesday, at a roundtable discussion on ‘Electoral Offences; Ensuring Documentation and Effective Prosecution’ organised by the Electoral Hub, an organ of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD) in Abuja.
The commission, according to stakeholders, is critical because it will manage electoral malpractices and prosecute crimes such as vote buying, thuggery, rigging, and violence during elections.
They claimed that the measure was necessary to combat politicians’ acts of impunity, in which they commit crimes and are either not prosecuted or get away with a slap on the wrist sanction.
According to Jega, Nigeria’s electoral process, including the pre-election, election-day, and post-election periods, is beset by several problems and malpractices.
According to the former INEC chairman, there are numerous types of offenses, but his main concern is the impunity with which they are done.
He went on to say that politicians, political parties, observers, and even security organizations were occasionally to blame for how the crimes were carried out.
As a result, Jega believes that establishing a commission to investigate electoral violations will assist to remove impunity.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, who was represented by Alhassan Umar, INEC Litigation and Prosecution Department, stated that the enormity of the task of prosecuting election offenses was beyond the Commission’s capability.
This, according to Yakubu, was because, while the statute enabled INEC to prosecute, it did not provide it the authority to arrest and investigate.
Ms Princess Hamman-Obels, Director of The Electoral Hub, stated that elections are essential to democracy, despite the fact that they are often very competitive and combative, producing a strong desire to win at any costs by indulging in various forms of misconduct.
Electoral malpractices and the prosecution of electoral offenses, according to Hamman-Obels, are common occurrences in Nigeria.
Electoral offenses such as vote-buying, thuggery, and cheating, according to the director, have remained a burden on Nigerians.
She claimed that electoral fraud and malpractices were rooted in Nigerian politicians’ and political parties’ “do or die” tactics, as well as corruption involving vote buying and selling, among other things.
Election malpractices and violations, according to Hamman-Obels, have been acknowledged as a major threat to the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral process by many electoral reformers, panels, and committees.
She said they also advocated the creation of a distinct entity, such as the National Electoral Offences Commission, to deal with the essential task of documenting and punishing electoral offenses.
According to her, INEC has already been entrusted with vast responsibility, thus a separate commission is needed to oversee the investigation and prosecution of election violators in order to maintain Nigeria’s democracy.