*Wants it to Tackle Inconclusive Elections, others
By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to establish an Electoral Offences Commission to prosecute electoral offences in the country.
The passage of the bill followed consideration of the report of its Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to the report, when established, “the Commission will consider recommendations made to it by any person for an offence disclosed on Tribunal on any election petition”.
Chairman of the Committee, Kabiru Gaya, disclosed that the commission will help in tackling the issues of inconclusive elections marred by violence, ensuring credibility in Nigeria’s electoral process by conforming with international best practices.
It will also make Nigeria’s electoral process credible by ensuring that electoral offenders are prosecuted and convicted accordingly.
The report which highlighted a list of electoral offences, also prescribed punishment for rigging, electoral violence and manipulation, the disenfranchisement of voters, vote buying and disinformation.
Others are, ballot stuffing, voters’ register manipulation, declaration of false election results, destruction or invalidation of valid ballots.
It also captured tampering with election systems and voter impersonation as electoral offences to be addressed by the commission.
The Bill was sponsored by Sen. Abubakar Kyari (APC-Borno).
“To this end, section 149 and 150 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) respectively vests INEC with the discretion and powers to prosecute alleged electoral offenders.”
Senator Gaya further said that since the advent of democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic in 1999, there was hardly any election that electoral offenses in their various forms had not characterized.
“Successive elections at the national, states and local government levels have been marred by irregularities, with political players resorting to violence to outsmart each other to achieve victory.
‘No Doubt, electoral offences remain a significant threat to credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria, where elections heighten political tension and trigger violence,” he reiterated.
He explained that the challenges facing INEC in the electoral process did not permit it face another battle of prosecution of electoral offenders.
The lawmaker revealed “this accounts for just a few convictions for electoral offences in the realm of criminal litigation in Nigeria.
“The above underscores the necessity of an active justice system for the prosecution of electoral offenders, which remains critical in ensuring a decrease in the level of electoral impunity and a reversal in the persistent trend of electoral offences”
Gaya further explained that this necessitated establishing a commission to be charged with investigating electoral offences and prosecution of electoral offenders in Nigeria.
He said that the commission would help strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process and ensure credible elections.
In his contribution, Sen. Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi) said that the commission would help sanitise and enhance the electoral process.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said “This is yet another landmark legislation that this Senate has been able to pass, break the jinx, and the demons are defeated too here.
“This is one sure way of keeping offenders responsible and accountable for their actions.
“We believe that this will sanitise our electoral system and process and we believe that INEC and States Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) will be able to conduct their elections free of violence.”