The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has accused elite and community leaders of enabling electoral fraud.
The reappointed Resident Electoral Commission (REC), Obo Effanga, stated this yesterday in Abuja, at the 2022 annual general meeting, fund raising, dinner and flag off of proposed lavatory/treeing planning projects in Imo and Abia State universities, by Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network, (ZESPRONET).
He said: “There are different levels of vote buying and selling. There is a wholesale one; where long before the election, the aspirants are going around meeting the elites; big men and women like themselves, political leaders, sometimes, religious and community leaders and making promises to them and offering them things.
“These people, in return, endorse them to the extend that something has been exchanged. We hardly talk about that.
“There is the middleman level of vote buying which happens at party primaries.
“Suddenly we now talk of delegates who have become super rich. That is also vote buying.
“But the elites do not talk about it because they are the ones involve. On election day, the person now opens his or her retail shop to sell votes. That is the one everybody talks about.
“If we are committed to stopping it then we should talk about it all through. It is a societal problem and a reflection of our level of development.
“So if people are unable to access the good things of life they give their votes for any amount of money.
“But by the time our economy improves those things would be a thing of the past.”
Notwithstanding, Effanga said the INEC would resist rigging and vote buying in the 2023 general elections.
According to him, the commission would distanced polling booths from the preening eyes of saboteurs around there.
“If people are buying votes it means votes are important and they can only win on the basis of the votes.
“And it is because the votes are counting and being counted that is why people are emerging elected on the basis of votes that is why the politicians are going after the votes by whatever means.
“They find out that, perhaps the easiest means for them to get the votes is to pay the people to vote for them. And that is what is happening.
“On the part of INEC, our interest is that anybody who is qualified to vote is given an unfettered access to vote and when the person has voted the vote is counted and results are declared on the basis of the counted votes.
“The issue of vote buying has now become a national malaise. It now becomes the responsibility of everyone who is interested in strengthening democracy to ensure that we reduce vote buying.
“How do we do that? Information and communication. We need to let the voters know why they should not sell their votes.
“Because when they do, they cheapen the votes based on the amount they collect and they say to them ‘you can go ahead and do whatever you want to do we me and my future, economy and everything’.
“One of the things INEC is doing is to ensure that at the polling unit, we keep the cubicle a distance of the preening eyes from members of the public who are around there.
“As much as possible we are trying to do that, depending also on the space we have in the polling unit.
“Sometimes, when you go to this polling units it is mostly in a congested area because these are communities where you have a lot of facilities.
“It could be by their market, school and square. So, the space is limited to a number of people in the polling unit.
“Now we also need to talk to the voters themselves. We need to talk to the political parties that they should try and win on the basis of how they have sold their plans and programmes to the electorate.
“But there is another point about vote buying that I will like to raise. I think that too often people lay emphasis on what I refer to as the retail part of vote buying,” he said.
He ruled out the possibility of diaspora voting, noting that it was not yet time for the country to venture into it.
“Any Nigerian in any part of the world should be able to vote because the person is a Nigerian and what happens in Nigeria is of concern to the person.
“Even if he is not affected directly, the relations are affected. So, if the person is willing to vote should be given opportunity to vote.
“For now the only way the person can vote is to come and vote physically in Nigeria because the law so far makes it that way.
“We do not have provision for polling units outside the country. Even when that comes, we, also, have to be careful.
“It is something that has to be done. It will be done eventually. Some of the technologies INEC is using now we even had it,” he said.
Meanwhile, National President of Zenith Environmental and Social Protection Network, (ZESPRONET), Boris Emeka Oji, noted that members of the group had brainstormed on how to spawn the economy of the South East.
“For instance, we have the knowledge base to encourage the governors into focusing and pushing for interconnectivity of the gas pipelines from Abia State through Imo State to the major business centres of Abia, Nnewi, Onitsha, Enugu Abakaliki that will bring businesses back to these cities, increase internally generated revenue and reduce reliance on the monthly allocations from the Federal Government,” he added.