- Warns parties, candidates against buying votes
By Lateef Ibrahim
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has sought for the assistance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in helping to track and trace the sources of funding by political parties and their candidates.
The 2010 amended Electoral Act expressly states the limit as to how much parties and candidates can spend on their campaigns. However, most of the parties and their candidates had, in past elections, flouted the stipulation of this portion of the electoral act.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while playing host to the EFCC acting Chairman, Mr. Ibr ahim Magu during a courtesy call on him in Abuja yesterday, pleaded with the Anti-corruption agency to help it track the campaign funding of the parties and candidates, since it has the mandate and capacity to do so.
Prof. Yakubu however noted that INEC was working under serious pressure, pointing out that 85 staffers of the Commission died last year (2017) due to stress related ailments.
According to the INEC Chairman, “As we approach the 2019 general elections, Mr. Chairman (of EFCC), we require the support of your commission, essentially in two ways. One, INEC is worried by the recent trend of open votes buying at polling stations. Candidates and parties storm polling stations with sacks and sacks of money to induce voters.
“Votes of citizens, and only votes of citizens, should determine who wins in an election. Our democracy must never be on sale at the open market! It is the will of the people that should determine who wins.
“Therefore, Mr. Chairman, we look forwards to working very closely with the EFCC to ensure that open votes buying will not be tolerated by the commission. And we don’t want the 2019 general elections to be determined by the amount of money people have, and they can go round on Election Day to buy people’s votes.
It is the right of Nigerians to vote for whomever, and that right must be upheld by INEC.
“And the second area is again relating to finances. This time around, it is about party and campaign financing. The Electoral Act places limit as to the amount parties and individuals can spend on elections, and also the amount that friends of candidates and parties can contribute in any election.
“We will like the EFCC, which has both the mandate and the capacity to track and trace sources of fund, to work very closely with us, so that we can operate within the limit of the law. Our democracy can never be on sale and it must never be on the open marker, and I believe that by working very closely with the EFCC we can achieve that”.
The INEC Chairman who assured Nigerians that INEC will remain an unbiased umpire, added “We will not work for any candidate or party. We will not work against any candidate or party. We are here to work for Nigerian people. And on Election Day, the votes they cast will determine who wins or loses the election.
“The EFCC has an important role to play, and we have been collaborating with the commission. Arising from the outcome of the 2015 general elections, we received a report from the EFCC. As a result of that report, the commission interdicted the largest number of staff ever in the history of INEC. We interdicted a total of 205 staff.
“But I will also wish to state that among the staff of the commission are some of the most conscientious hardworking Nigerians, and it is on that basis that last year the commission promoted 7, 330 staff for doing what they are supposed to do; and not only doing what are supposed to do but doing it well.
“I must also say that we are one of the agencies in the country working under severe pressure of time limit. Virtually everything you do has time limit under the law, and we are always racing against time.
“As a result of the tremendous pressure on staff of the commission, it may interest you to know that last year alone, we lost 85 staff of INEC, many of them as a result of stress related forces. In fact as we speak, one of our staff from the commission’s secretariat had a stroke yesterday, and he is in the intensive care of our hospital. But we will continue to do what we have sworn to do in the interest of this country, irrespective of what the pressure is”, he said.
Earlier, the EFCC acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu had assured that his Commission is prepared to collaborate and work with the electoral body.
His words, “I’m ready to stand by you, 24 hours, whenever our services are needed. We are all Nigerians. Every Nigerian has the responsibility to fight corruption. Every Nigerian should join me in the fight against corruption.
“Corruption is a disaster; it has done too many damages in the country. Corruption is the worst enemy of Nigeria; it is evil. It is like a cancer,” he said.
The EFCC Chairman therefore appealed to Nigerians to go and register for the forthcoming elections so as to exercise their civic duty with a view to fighting corruption.