Abbas Abubakar Umar
A few days to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC as part of it responsibility of protecting the Nigerian society from all forms of economic and financial crimes cautioned citizens on electoral fraud, particularly vote buying and selling. It is one fight the Commission is fighting in its effort to secure the country from the fangs of the corrupt.
Corruption remains the greatest challenge Nigeria is facing. Huge chunk of Naira, Dollars, Pounds and currencies of different denominations have been stolen by people who wish only to enrich themselves. The consequences are dire, not only to the government but also to the citizenry.
A lot of funds meant for various developmental work in the country have been stolen in virtually every sector and we are feeling the blow in terms of little or no infrastructure, security, defense, economy, health, agriculture to name but a few.
It is a known fact that politicians engage in dubious means to win elections, which entails economic and financial crimes and electoral fraud. There is no denying the fact that EFCC cannot fight this crime alone, it needs the support of all and sundry, to rid the country of corruption.
It is on this note that the EFCC resonated the warning by its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu against electoral fraud. To many people, electoral fraud is not in the purview of the EFCC’s mandate. This is however, a wrong view, because electoral fraud comes with money laundering activities, which in its entirety is a crime.
On the side of the citizens and some politicians who engage in this act, not knowing the implication and probably not even knowing what electoral fraud is, or what the law says about electoral fraud, they should be reminded that ignorance is no defence in law.
According to Wikipedia, although technically the term ‘electoral fraud’ covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which are legal, but considered morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of an election or in violation of the principles of democracy. The global online repository of definitions, also adds that election fraud is sometimes referred to as election manipulation or vote rigging, is illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. What exactly constitutes electoral fraud varies from country to country.
In the Nigerian context, vote buying is one aspect of electoral fraud that the EFCC is fighting. To a layman, vote buying is when a politician uses financial means as a form of inducement to the electorate to secure votes in his or her favor.
Section 124 of the Electoral Act, 2010 states that: Any person paying money to electorates as bribe at any election is liable to punishment of five hundred naira fine or twelve (12) months imprisonment or both upon conviction.
It further adds that: Any person receiving any money or gift for voting or to refrain from voting at any election will be liable to a maximum of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) or twelve months imprisonment or both.
Having understood the implication of electoral fraud from the point of view of the law, it is also pertinent for us all to shun all forms of economic and financial crimes. On this note, the EFCC seeks to educate, enlighten Nigerians and the international community on the effect of Electoral Fraud, since there are intelligence reports that huge chunk of money is in circulation which these politicians will use to ensure their success.
In this regard, the EFCC engages various stakeholders; civil society groups, government agencies, financial institutions and the international communities. The anti-graft agency has also promised to reward any citizen with information that will lead to the arrest of culprits, which is in accordance with the whistle blowing policy.
This I believe is a welcome development as it will help citizens understand that the implication and consequences of their action during and after election. And, when things go wrong regarding bad leadership, they will have themselves to be blamed.
It is now hoped that we all join hands with the EFCC and other security agencies in and out of the country to fight this menace. As President Muhammadu Buhari has said, “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” In the end if you see something, say something and the EFCC will do something.
Umar writes from Abuja