We would curtail vote buying during elections – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that it will no longer fold its arms while politicians and political parties engaged in vote buying during elections.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairperson, Legal Services and Complaints Committee, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, gave the warning at a training programme for legal officers of the commission and police officers on the prosecution of electoral offences.  The training, which was held in Lagos was jointly hosted by INEC and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).

Agbamuche-Mbu said such acts undermined the efforts of the commission in conducting successful elections.

According to her, there could not have been a better time to prevent, curtail and manage various electoral offences than now, especially with the outcome of the Ekiti gubernatorial election that was widely condemned as having witnessed open buying of votes.

“Recent happenings in Ekiti State during the just concluded governorship election have thrown up the need for a closer look at our prosecutorial efforts in the area of electoral offences. Vote buying has become an issue as witnessed in the Ekiti State governorship election and INEC cannot stand aloof and allow its efforts in planning successful elections be thrown into disrepute. We must protect the secrecy and sanctity of the vote,” she also said.

The INEC National Commissioner noted that the prosecution of electoral offences is a duty enjoined upon the commission by virtue of Section 150(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) while police officers are empowered to arrest and investigate offenders by Section 4 of the Police Act. CAP P19 LFN.

The ECES Nigeria Project Coordinator, Rudolf Elbling, who was represented by the ECES Senior Legal expert, Maria Theresa Mauraut, said the European Union Agency is delighted to support the works of the electoral commission in fostering its competencies on legal issues in relations to investigation, framing of charges as well as challenges of prosecution of election offences in Nigeria, among others.

“The perpetration of election offences undermines the smooth conduct of elections and has an impact on the integrity of the electoral process. Election offences constitute a violation of the laws and regulations guiding the conduct of the election, thus they may lead to disruption of elections, sometimes destruction of election materials and so on,” Elbling said.

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