…..Want INEC to Prosecute Electoral Offenders The CLEEN Foundation has deplored the over militarisation of the recently concluded Ekiti Governorship Election which it said stoked tension amongst the electorate. “The pronouncement by the police authority that it would deploy 30,000 police officers created its own tensions, raising dusts about the possibility of over-policing, if not
…..Want INEC to Prosecute Electoral Offenders
The CLEEN Foundation has deplored the over militarisation of the recently concluded Ekiti Governorship Election which it said stoked tension amongst the electorate.
“The pronouncement by the police authority that it would deploy 30,000 police officers created its own tensions, raising dusts about the possibility of over-policing, if not over-securitization, of the election “, the group said.
“The over-policing, if not over-securitization of the election with the huge number/presence of security agents was a serious concern”.
The organisation was particularly miffed at the “use of the military for an otherwise purely civil affair as election”, which it said “was also another source of worry.” “The deployment of the military for election duties remains contentious and should be reconsidered. Except where absolutely inevitable, the military should not be deployed for election duties”, the group said.
Arguing that “If five (5) is taken to be adequate per (Polling Unit) PU, CLEEN Foundation said that “Ekiti state with 2195 PUs should have a maximum of 10,975 security agents.” “Additional 3,000 for other sensitive areas such as INEC offices and collation centres would have sufficed, given a total of about 15,000. Yet, the police alone deployed 30,000. Other security agents also deployed, thereby raising concern not only about ‘securitization’, but also the costs of elections.”
Aligning its views with the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should take a hard look at offenders of vote buying, the group also frowned at the attitude of many security officials who simply looked away while allowing the perpetrators of vote buying to have a field way.
While chastising the “Massive vote buying by party agents and/or chieftains who were seen distributing money in order to influence the direction of voting particularly among the major political parties”, it said that “A dangerous aspect of this was the ability to monitor, if not ensure compliance by vote buyers”
“There were also some negative trends in the deployment and conduct of security agents: Poor response to some cases, particularly vote buying by party agents on the day of the election. This was done in the full glare of security agents but they chose to look the other way”
“We are concerned that the failure of INEC to rein-in electoral bribery is illustrated by the fact that the body has failed and/or neglected to investigate and prosecute similar incidents in other states,” SERAP said in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni.
SERAP urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of alleged vote-buying in Saturday’s governorship election in Ekiti.
Mumuni, said in a statement that a letter on the demand had been sent to the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, adding that SERAP would institute a suit against the commission if it declined to act.
Mumuni revealed that the letter urged INEC to collaborate with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the investigation.
According to him, SERAP urges INEC to prosecute anyone suspected to be involved or complicit in the alleged vote-buying, if there is relevant and sufficient evidence of electoral bribery and abuse of the democratic process against them.
He said the organisation requested Yakubu to take steps within 14 days of receipt of the letter, to act.
“This is to compel you and INEC to discharge your constitutional and statutory responsibilities in the public interest,” he quoted the letter as saying.
Mumuni said that it was the responsibility of INEC, as an independent body, to take meaningful steps and actions to minimise electoral bribery by politicians, adding that the commission needed to ensure political equality and prevent unfair electoral competition.
According to him, this is because no body politic worthy of being called a democracy entrusts the selection of leaders to a process of auction or barter.
He said that vote-buying amounted to undue influence and improper electoral influence.
The SERAP director said that when politicians bought votes, they reinforced social subjugation and did long-term damage to poor voters as vote-buying impaired voters’ already limited political power and participation in governance.
He said that offering and giving poor people money to buy their votes was the hallmark of political disrespect as it implied that politicians perceived voters as lacking autonomy.
He disclosed that copies of the letter to INEC were also sent to ICPC and EFCC and that investigating the allegations and prosecuting suspects in the process would indicate the agencies’ willingness to exert authorities.
The human rights activist stated that this would send a strong message to politicians that INEC would not tolerate any infringement of the electoral process ahead of 2019 general elections.
He said that vote-buying amounted to undue interference in the free exercise of the right to vote as it was implicitly aimed at influencing or attempting to influence a voter not to vote or to vote in a particular manner.
Mumini said that the N3,000 or N5,000 allegedly given to voters during the Ekiti election or payment into the bank accounts of voters was corruptly intended.
He said that it was clearly aimed at influencing the choice of candidates and their voting intention, adding that the practice seriously undermined the right of voters to freely vote out of their convictions.
Mumuni said that vote-buying gave wealthy politicians an advantage in election campaigns and outcome greater than what they already possessed.
“Our democracy cannot be sustainable when the electoral system inordinately prioritises the rights of political parties and their candidates in elections over and above those of the ordinary voter,” he said, contending that “when politicians bought votes from the poor, political equality suffered”.
He alleged that many voters were videoed moving in numbers to ‘cash collection points’ in lieu of their votes, while others received alerts.
“We consider allegations of vote-buying as political corruption, because it is the promising or giving of value in the form of money in return for a promise of a vote”.
CLEEN however scored INEC high on the administration of the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti state, which it said “will go down as one of the most effective in recent times”.
According to the group, the defining elements of the election include “its overall peacefulness, good organization, including timely deployment of electoral materials and officers, adequate election security, and timely collation and release of results, among others”.
More specifically, CLEEN Foundation’s observers found:
- Early deployment of electoral materials and personnel, as well as early opening of polling centres and commencement of voting in most polling units covered in the state;
- Orderly organization of polling units, including appropriate placement of voting points though in a way that guarantees openness and transparency, but not independence of choice;
- Professionalism on the part of electoral officers, including effective handling of electoral processes and procedures by adhoc staff of INEC;
- Substantial improvement in the level of coordination and communication between/among different stakeholders -political parties, security agencies, electoral officers- in handling and resolving contentious issues;
- The deployment of technical assistants from INEC’s headquarters to attend swiftly to challenges emanating from the use of Smart Card Readers;
- Timely collation and release of results at all levels -Polling units (PUs), registration areas (Wards), LGAs and state level;
- Overall improvement in dealing with the challenges of electoral logistics, including transportation and deployment of materials and officers. This has usually been a major source of concern in previous elections;
- Drastic reduction in the level of electoral violence compared to previous elections;
- Special attention given to pregnant women aged people to cast their votes without staying too long on the queue;
- Improvement in attending to the plight of People With Disabilities (PWDs);
- A fairly impressive voter turnout;
- Inter-agency collaborations especially between INEC and security agencies and
- Substantial compliance with the legal frameworks governing the administration of the election, including simultaneous accreditation and voting, among others.
On security deployment, CLEEN Foundation said, “Our observers found that the adequate provision of election security by security agencies largely explains the substantial improvement in the effectiveness of the administration of the 2018 Ekiti governorship election.” “Security agents were found to have demonstrated exemplary professionalism that has been missing in previous elections”, it said.