- Alleges shoddy handling of electoral litigations
By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday berated some States Attorneys-General for failing to diligently prosecute electoral offenders arrested in their states.
Yakubu noted with regrets that some of the cases were dismissed for want of diligent prosecution, while in some States the Attomeys-General entered nolle prosequi to get the alleged offenders off the hook.
The INEC Chairman said this yesterday in Abuja during his meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners of the commission from all the States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
He lamented that even where the Commission recorded the most successful prosecution of electoral offenders following the violence witnessed in the Minjibir State Assembly bye-election in Kano State in 2016, it was unclear how many of the 40 offenders sentenced to prison with the option of fine actually spent time in jail. The fine, he said, was paid presumably by their sponsors.
In the words of Prof Yakubu, “at the moment, INEC is saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders. We have drawn public attention to our constraint in this regard. “We have no capacity to arrest offenders and conduct investigation without which successful prosecution is impossible.
“Over the years, we have worked closely with the Nigeria Police.
“Since 2015, we have received a total of 149 case files, including 16 cases arising from the 2019 General Election.
“The cases are prosecuted in the States where the alleged offences were committed.
“Unlike pre-election and post-election cases, there is no timeframe for the prosecution of electoral offenders.
A case may go on for several years. “Some of the cases were dismissed for want of diligent prosecution while in some States the Attomeys-General entered nolle prosequi to get the alleged offenders off the hook.
“Even where the Commission recorded the most successful prosecution of electoral offenders following the violence witnessed in the Minjibir State Assembly bye-election in Kano State in 2016, it is unclear how many of the 40 offenders sentenced to prison with the option of fine actually spent time in jail. “The fine was paid presumably by their sponsors.
“That is why we believe that the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal will dispense justice dispassionately and speedily in the same way that the Electoral Court deals with violators in other countries such as South Africa.
“We also hope that the security agencies will get to the root of all violations and support the Commission to prosecute not just the thugs that terrorise voters and INEC officials, snatch election materials at polling units and collation centres but their sponsors as well” he said.
Prof Yakubu expressed deep concern that elections in Nigeria, especially for executive positions, are increasingly characterised by brazen acts of impunity.
“impunity has become the bane of our elections. The best antidote to impunity is the enforcement of sanctions under our laws without fear and favour. Where offenders are not punished, bad behaviour is encouraged”, he said.
Speaking generally about the last general elections in the country, the INEC Chairman said, “Arising from the 2019 General Election, a total of 807 post-election petitions were filed at the tribunals. Out of this figure, 582 were dismissed, 183 withdrawn by the petitioners, 30 for re-run election and 12 for issuance of certificates of retum. “This means that the Commission is required by order of the tribunals to conduct re-run elections in 30 constituencies across 12 States of the Federation involving 2 Senatorial Districts out of 109, 13 Federal Constituencies out of 360 and 15 State Constituencies out of 991.
“In a majority of cases, elections are to be re-run in just a few polling units, some of them in only one polling unit in the entire constituency”, he said.