Human rights lawyer, Mr.Femi Falana, SAN, has warned that the 2023 election may be marred by violence, stressing that elections cannot hold in many parts of Nigeria given the activities of criminals in some parts of the company.
Speaking on Channel Television programme, Politics Today, yesterday, Falana stated that based on security reports at his disposal, criminals have taken control in about 616 local government in Nigeria, where you cannot talk about election.
Falana also expressed worries about the inability of the law enforcement agencies to prosecute electoral offenders, adding that unless something urgent is done the 2023 elections may be marred by violence of unimaginable proportion.
He said: “In Nigeria, elections cannot be conducted as of today, and I understand from security reports that criminals have taken control in about 616 Local Government in Nigeria, where you cannot talk about election.
“There are local governments in Nigeria today, where farmers have to pay levies posed on them terrorists. You can’t talk of elections in those places. The members of the political class and the government will have to sit down instead of jumping all over the place. Can we really hold election under an atmosphere of violence and lawlessness as we are currently witnessing. Because if this trend continues, the credibility of the elections will be questioned. Candidate will say I would have won in places where you didn’t hold election, and that would be problematic.
On INEC’s commitment to conduct credible election, he said: “The Electoral Act 2022 has introduced the use of technology, to a great extent in the conduct of the elections. But the enemies of democracy are trying to frustrate the INEC from realising the objective of the law.
“It is the duty of Nigerians to frustrate such anti-democratic forces. As you witness in Osun and Ekiti States, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was among the security agencies that arrested those who were buying and selling selling votes.
“Those who were involved in Osun have been charged before the court. When I asked why the criminal elements in Ekiti were not charged. I was told that a member of the ruling party accompanied by thugs invaded the temporary office of the EFCC and carted away all the materials that were seized and thereby destroyed the evidence.
“INEC alone cannot conduct credible election. The people themselves must beyond organising rally , the people themselves beyond attending rallies must defend their votes. Under the new Electoral Act, election would be won and lost at each polling units, and there would be automatic transmission of results.
“We must show that we are civilized people prepared to operate under the rule of law. We can just throw up our hands in helplessness, when there is a government in place.
What we are expecting will be worse than what we witnessed in 2015, when the election was postponed for six weeks.
“ Efforts were made after the law has been passed by both chambers of the National Assembly to amend that provision and remove the clause that allows electronic transmission of results. But, because of the vigilance of Nigerians, that was not allowed. Such vigilance must characterise the entire democratic process. And that is the only way INEC can succeed.
“But beyond that, I like to appeal to the Houses Representatives to pass the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, which was passed last July by the Senate. Surprisingly the House of representatives has not passed the Bill. to prosecute electoral offences and unless we do that the 2023 elections may be marred by violence of unimaginable propossion.
Right now, those who are committing electoral offences are not being arrested or prosecuted, and that cannot continue if we want to have good elections.
On amount that Presidential candidates can spend on election, Falana said there is no dichotomy between the candidate and the political party as far as the law is concerned.
He explained that since candidates are sponsored by the political parties, if the parties go beyond the N5 billion limitation stipulated for a presidential candidate, the law can be applied against the political party.
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