Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, has explained why it is difficult to check vote-buying in Nigeria
Prof. Owasanoye said tackling vote-buying is a daunting task due to the large number of people involved in the act.
He stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, yesterday.
According to him, vote-buying is so rampant and widespread in the country that it is difficult to arrest and prosecute offenders.
Besides, attempts to arrest vote-buyers at polling units usually led to clashes between armed thugs and security agents; which endanger the lives of voters. He suggested that more attention should rather be given to prevention, through deployment of technologies and improvement in the country’s voting infrastructure.
“When something is rampant like this, you can hardly eradicate it by enforcing measures alone.
“Take, for example, a situation where a whole community, led by their leaders, reached an agreement to trade their votes. People were led by opinion leaders to say ‘we must be paid for our votes.’ Now, can you arrest an entire community?
“Investigation and prosecution is very expensive, and, the capacity to do all the available cases is severely limited. It is not possible to prosecute all the cases that are staring you in the face.
“So, you have to adopt preventive measures that help to diminish corruption much more vigorously than enforcement,” Owasanoye said.
To this end, the ICPC boss said the Commission held a policy dialogue, after the last general election, to identify effective ways to eliminate the problem.
One of the key recommendations at the forum, he said, was the need to increase the role of technology in the voting process.
He said: “If you reduce the human interface, those who want to buy votes will realise that their money will be wasted.
“Secondly, the way the polling units are designed for now, they are too open. It is easy for somebody hanging around to actually spy or know how you voted or for the vote seller to display the ballot paper, pretending to fold it so that it can be seen that you voted as agreed.
“So, improving the infrastructure for voting, to increase the confidentiality of the ballot, is important.”
Owasanoye added that ICPC is currently working on a policy paper, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to guide remedial measures.
Besides, he said the Commission is also intensifying its public education and enlightenment activities; to sensitise Nigerians against the implications of selling their votes.
“The policy document we are drafting will also be able to look at who should be playing what role among all stakeholders.
“It will look at what role the political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission, law enforcement agencies, civil society and citizens themselves, can play in the fight against vote-buying,” he said.