2023: Our plans to check vote-buying – Yakubu
THE Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has said the Commission is mapping out measures to check vote buying in the 2023 general polls.
Promising that the forthcoming polls would be better than the recent Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, he insisted that the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal will check vote buying in the nation.
He spoke in Lagos at the Commission’s Retreat on the lessons learned from recent Ekiti and Osun off-cycle governorship elections.
Asked what the commission is doing to curb vote-buying, he said: “Vote buying is a violation of the Electoral Act. It’s against the laws of this country. We will continue to do whatever we can through voter education. We will continue to work with anti-graft agencies like the EFCC and the ICPC to checkmate that. We will also work with the security agencies to discourage it.
“The truth is that the more we improve on the electoral process, the more the traditional rigging process is no longer in vogue. Once we protect the integrity of the process at the polling unit level, our election is as good as any credible election.
“The other thing we can do and which we have been doing is to change the configuration of our polling units so that it would make things difficult for vote buyers to see which party the citizens voted for in order to induce them.
“In previous elections, we banned the use of smart phones and photographic devices while in the cubicle. All these are measures to make sure we protect the process.
“Ultimately, it is our collective responsibility as citizens. Our elections are as good as the kind of cooperation the Commission receives to ensure that we stern this ugly trend.
“However, the ultimate safeguard against this kind of attitude is the establishment of an electoral offences tribunal. We have said so consistently. The Electoral Act has placed on the Commission a responsibility it hardly has the capacity to successfully implement. INEC is required to prosecute offenders it cannot arrest. INEC has no police.
“Secondly, we don’t have the capacity to successfully investigate such that we have evidence that would lead to successful prosecution. I have said severally, some of the violators may actually be INEC officials. It is difficult for us to prosecute ourselves.
“So, establish the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal to which all violators of electoral laws would be subjected whether they are people at the polling units or INEC officials.
“But very importantly, the actual sponsors, the person who snatches the ballot box at the polling units, the person who falsifies results is unlikely to be a candidate in the election. So, as long as we don’t get the sponsors, the shenanigans of vote buying are going to continue and the best antidote for it is the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal.”
On the forthcoming general elections, he said: “While the Commission draws vital lessons from the conduct of the most recent Off-Cycle elections, managing the forthcoming General Election is huge.
“The voter population, number of polling units, election personnel, security considerations, logistics are enormous. For instance, compared to the General Election, the Ekiti and Osun voter population constitutes just 3.5 per cent of Pulling Units nationwide.
“Conducting a General Election will be entirely different but the principles remain the same.
“After all, following the successful conduct of Ekiti Governorship, some people wondered if the same can be repeated in Osun because of its much bigger size and population. As it turned out, Osun was an improvement of Ekiti. This gives us confidence that working on the same principles, the General Election will be successfully delivered.
“Our task at this retreat is to review the Ekiti and Osun elections as we prepare for a bigger and more complex General Election.
“Election is a mighty stakeholders’ activity. There are responsibilities that are entirely that of the commission. There are responsibilities that belong to other stakeholders. As far as the preparation for the elections is concerned in terms of INEC responsibility, we are very happy with the progress we are making. So far, so good.”
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