Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accused some politicians of deliberately corrupting its staff in the 2019 general election.
INEC Commissioner in charge of Information, Festus Okoye, who represented the chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this at the presentation of the 2019 General Election Report and 2019 General Election Observation Statements, organised by Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) and Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room; a two-day event, in Abuja, on Monday.
The electoral commission stridently denied claims that it compromised the 2019 elections and insisted that the blame of whatever shortcomings that may have been discovered about the election should be taken to the doorsteps of politicians and mischief makers and that it would soon submit, to the National Assembly, the report of the last election; as required by the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Okoye reiterated that “politicians moved in to corrupt some of the ad-hoc staff and unleashed violence on others.”
Other INEC commissioners at the event were Amina Zakari, Mohammed Haruna, May Agbamuvhe-Mbie; including Resident Electoral Commissioners for Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, Zamfara, Enugu and Osun states, as well as Chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council, Peter Ameh.
Okoye also called for an amendment of section 35 of the Electoral Act (2010), relating to the withdrawal of nominated candidates.
He said the timeline is inadequate and does not give the “Commission enough time to procure sensitive materials required for the conduct of elections” and that INEC is concerned about the recruitment of Ad-hoc staff .
The INEC spokesman disclosed that the Commission would review the “rough edges and issues raised; relating to deployment, neutrality and overall conduct of security agencies.”
Also, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), in Abuja, have demanded immediate prosecution of those involved in electoral malfeasance, during the last general election even as they called for the signing of new electoral laws; to forestall a repeat of the pitfalls of the 2019 polls .
Describing as unfortunate, a situation where months after the general election, those who committed diverse electoral offences are walking the street free, acting CTA Executive Director, Ms Faith Nwadishi, said that was akin to sending a wrong signal to the public.
She said: “Let us state clearly here that the ultimate test of credibility is how government handles criminality.
“If people do not see electoral offenders prosecuted and punished, the message would be clear that these persons work for those we have elected and who, tomorrow, would come seeking our votes again.
“Ifthe government and the political class continue to act nonchalant, the people will lose confidence in politics and democracy and anarchy and self-help would be the outcomes.
“That would spell the end of Nigeria as we know it. It is, therefore, the duty of the government, INEC and every patriotic citizen to ensure that is not our fate.
“We have to work for a better electoral system now by ensuring that the law is upheld and offenders are appropriately punished.”
Her stand was re-choed by Igini, who said the problem with Nigeria’s democracy is the elite; who he said are benefiting from the current situation.
Said Igini: “The political elite is the greatest threat to our democracy. They are working to consolidate on their wrongdoings.
“The problem we have is absence of consequence for offenders. A situation (where) a wrong is allowed, it could be repeated tomorrow. That is the challenge we have on our hands.”