The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday said cases of vote-buying was increasing in elections in the country because its administrative process could not be subverted.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made this known at the Public Presentation of 2018 Ekiti Governorship Election Observation Report by Election Monitors, a Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Abuja.
Mahmood, who was represented by Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, National Commissioner and Head of Legal Service of INEC, said that the Ekiti election was being plagued by allegations of vote-buying.
“There are several provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), criminalising bribery and corruption relating to voting during elections, including Sections 124, 126, 129 and 130.
“INEC has continued to perfect its processes and has closed all loopholes.
“Results cannot now be written and neither can ballot boxes be gainfully snatched as the results will automatically be cancelled.
“Our own administrative processes can no longer be subverted. Vote-buying therefore, is the only way to subvert the integrity of an election,’’ he said.
According to Yakubu, by virtue of Section 150(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), it is the responsibility of INEC to prosecute electoral offenders.
He said that it included those involved in the act of buying and selling of votes as well as announcement of false election results.
He, however, said that INEC lacked the power of investigation and arrest.
Yakubu said that the commission was deeply concerned about the rising phenomenon of vote-buying during elections and was determined to continue to work with all stakeholders to curb it.
He said that the stakeholders included law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, who could find solutions to the menace.
“Indeed, as part of this process and in conjunction with the European Union Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), INEC legal officers across the country with police officers will be trained.
“The over three months training will be on prosecution of electoral offences.
“We will also intensify voter education as this damaging trend has got to be stopped in its tracks,’’ he said.
Yakubu thanked Election Monitor for the report and promised to study it and accord it full and due consideration.
He said that this was because election observers were important stakeholders in the electoral process and that it was the reason INEC regularly engaged with CSOs.
The National Coordinator, Election Monitor, Mr Abiodun Ajijola, said that the organisation monitored the Ekiti election and that vote-buying was at play.
Ajijola said that there were several and widespread occurrences of vote-buying during the election, adding that the level was not only atrocious and appalling but constituted threat to Nigeria’s sustenance of its nascent democracy.
He said that open purchase of votes, transfer of funds to accounts of voters 24 hours to election and so on, were unacceptable practices that should be condemned and brought to an end immediately.
Ajijola commended INEC for giving a level-playing field to all political parties during the election without showing any form of partisanship.
He said that in spite of very few announced electoral malpractices leading to a very low number of cancellations of 8,072 votes, slight malpractices could have a significant impact on election outcome.
“Considering the cancellations and the high rate of voided votes, it is Election Monitor’s considered opinion that while the election is believed to be generally free and fair, credibility of the outcome could not be guaranteed.
“Issues previously mentioned, may or may not have had a significant impact on the election result.’’
Ajijola said that voter-turnout at the election recorded during the Ekiti election was about five per cent points lower than that of the 2014 election in the state.
He said that this was, however, still quite impressive considering the fact that governorship elections in other states in the past few years even recorded better turnout of up to 40 per cent. (NAN)