Why INEC should ask NBA to prosecute electoral offenders


Femi Falana (SAN)

By Femi Falana

In order to deal with electoral offences committed during elections in Nigeria, the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel had recommended the setting up of Electoral Offences Commission. The recommendation was ignored by the political class. But due to pressure mounted on the National Assembly by progressive civil society groups,  the Senate passed the Electoral Offences Commission Bill in July  2021. Up till now,  the members of the House of Representatives, the Bill have refused to pass the Bill for undisclosed reasons.

The Independent National Electoral Commission empowered by 145 of the Electoral Act, 2022 to prosecute electoral offenders has said that it cannot combine the conduct of elections with the trial of electoral offenders. Happily, the Nigerian Bar Association has announced that its members are prepared to embark on the prosecution of electoral offenders in all the states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The leadership of the INEC should give fiat to the Nigerian Bar Association for the immediate prosecution of all suspected electoral offenders.

We have confirmed that the operatives of the anti graft bodies, police and other security agencies arrested scores of alleged electoral offenders before and during the February 25, 2023 general elections. The anti democratic elements were alleged to have committed electoral offences such as money laundering, financial inducement of voters, snatching of BVAS machines, destruction of ballot papers, manipulation of election results, violent attack on voters by thugs, ballot box snatching, forgery of election results, improper use of voter cards,  impersonation, underage voting,  dereliction of duty by electoral officers or polling agents of political parties, bribery and conspiracy and violation of the requirement for secrecy in voting etc.

The investigation of the offences should be speedily concluded while the case files are immediately forwarded to the secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association at Abuja. As there is no statute of limitation for electoral offences, some of the suspects who cannot be arrested or prosecuted for now by virtue of section 308 of the Constitution should face the wrath of the law at the end of their term of office. Such public officers who abused their office should be treated like  President Donald Trump who is liable to be charged with the disruption of the November 2020 presidential election held in the United States.

It is sad to note that many voters and electoral officers, including youth corps members who resisted rigging, were brutalised on alleged orders of a governor. In another state, a governor engaged a contractor to dig holes and destroy a road to discourage voters from voting for a particular candidate. The National Human Rights Commission should investigate the complaints of all victims of electoral violence with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.

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However, it has been reported that certain thugs have threatened to attack people for voting for candidates of their choice.  Our organisation is in touch with the police and other security agencies to prevent attack on citizens for performing their civic duties. The Police and other security agencies should ensure that the Governorship and legislative elections scheduled to hold on February 16, 2023 are not hijacked or disrupted by thugs and other criminal gangs.

Meanwhile, to diffuse tension in the country, INEC should uphold the results of the presidential election in the INEC portal in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines. At the same, members of the political class should desist from inciting the Nigerian people to violence. Let all aggrieved parties and individuals pursue their genuine grievances under the Electoral Act by filing petitions before the Election Petition tribunals and the Court of Appeal not later than 14 days after the declaration of results of elections.

Femi Falana SAN,

The Chair,

Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB)

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