The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suggested urgent amendment of the Electoral Act before 2019 general elections to establish a non-partisan agency to prosecute electoral offenders.
INEC noted that although Section 150 (2) of the 2010 Act put the responsibility of prosecution on its shoulders, lacks the power to investigate and arrest those involved in the act of buying and selling votes as well as announcement of false election results.
At the public presentation of Ekiti State governorship election monitors’ observation report, represented by INEC’s Director, Legal Services, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, who represented the Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said: “The commission is deeply concerned about the rising phenomenon of vote buying during elections and is determined to continue to work with all stakeholders, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, among others, to find solutions to this menace.”
The national co-ordinator of election monitors, Abiodun Ajijola, in his presentation of the report, said although INEC was apt in the deployment of electoral materials and human resources to the polling units, the election was marred by massive vote buying, which is a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
Ajijola, who raised concerns over the cancellation of 8,072 votes, urged INEC to conduct forensic audit to determine the cause of the sharp increase in voided ballots and work towards recapturing of fingerprints that could not be read but are on voter’s list.
Other observer groups that monitored the Ekiti gubernatorial poll, have also asked the National Assembly to review the Electoral Act to criminalise vote buying during elections even as they commended INEC for an improved outing.
At a press conference yesterday jointly addressed by the New Initiative For Social Development (NISD) Executive Director, Abiodun Oyeleye and International Federal of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Programme Officer, Blessing Ajileye, the observers said INEC improved tremendously in the conduct of the election compared to previous polls that were substantially rated to either end inconclusively or to have been marred with irregularities.
Meanwhile, INEC yesterday insisted that the cost estimation of N242.4 billion submitted for the execution of the 2019 general elections was justifiable in view of the current reality.
It hinted that over 10 million eligible voters have so far been registered in the ongoing continuous voters registration exercise.
INEC’s national commissioner in charge of publicity, Mohammed Haruna, who spoke with journalists at the opening of a five-day bridge workshop for the commission’s public affairs officers in Kano, said the 2019 elections budget was among the cheapest in Africa.
He said: “When you put sentiment apart and you bring the whole budget in perspectives and relativity, you will agree with the commission that the budget is not above the usual.
Now, people who are comparing the previous budget with the present did not consider the inflation, the present number of voters compared with what we used to have.
Now, by the time you put all of these variables in consideration, you will have no doubt that the budget is relatively placed.
Again, when you check cost of running elections world over, in terms of election per voter, you will know that INEC’s budget is the cheapest in Africa.”