Posted by News Express | 24 August 2022 | 549 times
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have expressed different views on the propriety or otherwise of the proposed establishment of a special commission to handle electoral offences.
While INEC during a public hearing on the Bill at the House of Representatives on Tuesday said its existence as a special body for that purpose will enhance the nation’s electoral system, EFFC was of the opinion that existing laws have conferred some extant agencies, including itself with powers to investigate and prosecute the offences so listed in the proposed bill seeking the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission, and so there was no need for it.
While calling for full independence of the electoral commission, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated that “For those who argue that the solution does not lie in expanding the federal bureaucracy by creating a new Commission, we believe that the National Electoral Offences Commission should be seen as an exception. While there are other security agencies that deal with economic and financial crimes, I am yet to hear anyone who, in good conscience, thinks that it is unnecessary to have established the anti-corruption agencies.”
According to him, “It is clear that the reform of our electoral process cannot be complete without effective sanctions on violators of our laws. At present, INEC is saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders under the Electoral Act. This has been very challenging for the Commission. For instance, since the 2015 General Election, 125 cases of electoral offences were filed in various Courts out of which 60 convictions have been secured so far, including the most recent one in Akwa Ibom State.”
He said the commission would therefore like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, not just ballot box snatchers, falsifiers of election results and vote buyers at polling units but most importantly, their sponsors.
Making presentation on behalf of the EFCC however, Assistant Commander of the Commission, Deborah Ademu-Eteh insisted that “the contents of the proposed bill shows that the offences contained therein in Part IV (Sections 13-32) largely constitute offences that have already been criminalized by extant laws”, adding that these offences are offences that the Nigerian Police, the Federal Ministry of Justice, EFCC, ICPC and even INEC under the 2022 Electoral Act are empowered under extant laws to investigate and prosecute.
Meanwhile, the Bill under consideration has spelt out fines and various prison terms for certain categories of electoral offences, with the prohibition of obstruction of votes counting or other acts inhibiting electoral due process to attract a fine of N40 million on conviction, or at least 20 years imprisonment.
Other prohibited offences include vote buying, impersonation, undue influence which may include threat, violence or restraint, bribery, disturbing public peace, character damage, campaign against national interest, as well as certain classes of expenditures to be considered illegal amongst othe, all with their proposed various degrees of fines, and or prison terms.
Declaring the public hearing opened earlier, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by his deputy, Idris Wase, said though there have been significant improvement in the electoral process as witnessed in the Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections, “there is no doubt that a lot of work still needs to be done to take the country to the point where elections are devoid of the usual challenges of violence, fraud and abuse of process”.
In her remarks, Chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku assured stakeholders that a special technical committee will be appointed to go through all the submissions made, in conjunction with its Senate counterpart, in order to come up with a report for the consideration of the larger House at resumption. (The Guardian)
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