Vote buying casts pall on 2023 polls process
By John Eche
The continuing incidence of vote buying in the Nigerian political space is casting a pall on the Nigerian political process and most notably the forthcoming 2023 polls, The Difference Checks reveal.
While there hs been a latest surge in the desire of Nigerians to register and be accredited as voters in the electoral process, the evidence of widespread vote buying in the just concluded Ekiti State governorship polls where sums ranging from N500 to N10,000 were allegedly dished out as inducement to voters is leading many to worry as to the sanctitty of the democraticprocess in the country.
Troubled, activist and lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAn has written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives , Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, asking for an explanation on the status of the elecoral offences bill that has yet to receive the concurrence of the House despite its passage by the Senate a year ago. In the letter, which was made available to the Difference, Falana said:
‘As you are no doubt aware, the Independent National Electoral Commission was empowered to prosecute electoral offenders under section 150 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 as amended. But the INEC was unable to discharge the statutory duty due to alleged lack of wherewithal. Hence, its failure to prosecute even one per cent of the 870,000, 900,000 and 1,100,000 million electoral offenders arrested during the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections respectively.
In order to stop the increasing wave of electoral impunity the Senate passed the Electoral Offences Commission Bill on July 14, 2021 and forwarded same to the House of Representatives. But the Bill has been ignored due to reasons best known to the members of the House of Representatives under your watch. Hence, section 145 of the Electoral Act 2022 has vested the Independent National Electoral Commission with the statutory duty to prosecute electoral offenders in the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 States of the Federation.
Even though sections 114-121 of the Electoral Act have made adequate provisions for electoral offences the Independent National Electoral Commission does not have the capacity to arrest, investigate and prosecute electoral offenders. In the atmosphere of official impunity the leading members of the political class have engaged themselves in the dollarisation of the electoral process, vote buying, intimidation of political opponents, killing and thuggery, ballot snatching e.t.c
In view of the foregoing, we are compelled to request the Honourable Speaker to furnish us with information on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill passed by the Senate and forwarded to the House of Representatives since July last year. As this request is made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 you are requested to provide the requested information within seven days of the receipt of this letter.
TAKE NOTICE that if you fail or refuse to accede to our request we shall not hesitate to file an application for mandamus at the Federal High Court to compel you to disclose the requested information.’
A response from the House is now being awaited.