According to him, politicians were becoming desperate to engage in malpractices because of their frustration by the new order. He, however, urged the government to prosecute sponsors of vote buying and selling and their agents, saying that vote buying and selling should be treated as criminal offences that should be punished. Yakubu spoke in Keffi, Nasarawa State at the “Anti-corruption policy dialogue on eradicating electoral corruption: Focus on vote buying”, which was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). The INEC boss, whose address was read by a National Commissioner in-charge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye said: “You can see that our elections are getting better and the politicians are getting more desperate. And these accounts for some of the challenges we have. “It is evident that the innovations and improvements in our electoral processes since 2010 have somehow put a check on ballot box snatching, ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, or falsification of results, diversion of election materials, hijack of election personnel, falsification of election results and violations of the electoral laws have become considerably addressed. “As votes start to count, as the election are determined solely by the electoral votes, politicians now go directly to the polling units to induce the voters. And I say that the votes are beginning to count.” “Voter inducement before and after voting is manifested in two ways first is attempts by politicians and their agents to determine the choice of voters by offering them monetary or material rewards. Second is the attempt by prospective voters to demand such gratification in order to vote.” Yakubu added: “INEC is concerned about the impact of vote buying and vote selling on our democracy. Vote buying and selling is an illegal act. Sponsors of vote buying and selling must be brought to book and not only those that are given instructions to do so. “In response to these challenges, INEC has adopted the following measures: changing and enhancing the secrecy of votes through polling unit management and locating the voting unit boxes outside for the view of party agents and the voters.” On the laws to apply on offenders, he said: “The provisions of sections 124, 125 and 129, 1 and 130 of the Electoral Acts 2010 as amended provide us with clear indications of the illegality of vote buying and selling. “While section 124 stipulates offences relating to bribery and conspiracy, section 125 reinforces the requirements of secrecy in voting. Section 124 subsections 18 (d) and 13(a) simply spelt out what constitutes electoral offences and undue influence with specific reference to vote buying and selling. The punishments for contravening these provisions as stipulated in sections 129 and 130 respectively. “Beyond the provisions of the Electoral Act legal provisions due to bribery and corruption particularly the enabling Act of the ICPC. EFCC and FIRS, as well as the administration of justice Act makes voters’ inducement and vote buying a criminal act.” He said the dialogue should be the beginning of concerted efforts towards democratic consolidation. The INEC chair said: “You will recall that in my speech during the presentation of the certificate of return to the President-elect and the vice president-elect on the February 27, 2019, I emphasized the need for a national dialogue on various aspect of our electoral democracy. “Indeed, such a dialogue is required to nurture and sustain our democracy. And it is my hope that this dialogue will be the beginning of concerted efforts towards democratic consolidation in our dear country.” He, however, expressed regrets that vote inducement has become a global phenomenon. Yakubu said: “The use of inducement to gather votes is an old and recurring practice across the world. Such inducements which are often deployed to influence voters on how they vote range from money to material goods and defers from one country to another. Items such as vehicle parts, chairs, wrist watches, textile materials, shirts, buckets, cements, rice, and cooking oil are used for inducement. “Medications and mobile phones have become ready currencies in the transactional relationships that have developed between the voters and the political class. “In recent times, the use of money to induce voters or to buy votes especially within the vicinity of polling units has come under intense public scrutiny. “Agents of political parties now stand at strategic locations around our pulling units to see which party a voter has voted for either directly or through a picture of the marked ballot paper as evidence for payment.” The INEC boss noted that investigations show various that the use of inducement as a strategy of vote mobilisation is a global phenomenon. For example, 15 per cent of voters’ survey across Latin American from 2010 to 2012 and 16 per cent of voters in 33 African countries in 2016, acknowledged been offered money or some material goods in exchange for their votes. He said: “Here in Nigeria, 69 per cent of respondents acknowledged receiving money or items such as rice, Maggie cubes, shirts, plastic buckets and textile materials in exchange for their votes in two governorship elections in 2014 and 2015.” “Indeed, in one of the governorship elections and other subsequent elections, such practices were referred to as stomach infrastructure. It has now become famous terminology in our political vocabulary. The way at which this act has undertaken has turned our polling unites into trading centers and market places for buying and selling of votes.” Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said: “It is disheartening to know that vote buying and other forms of electoral corruption and violence in the last elections have cast doubts on the credibility and integrity of the country’s electioneering process.” The SGF, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the SGF, Mr. Olusegun Adekunle said: “Hate speeches too, have become a tool for opponents to attack each other because of conflicting situation. “I feel very elated with the organisation of this dialogue because it is at fora like this that we are able to have useful engagements needed to build the consensus that is necessary for developing national and multi-stakeholder response required to tackle challenges like the vote buying phenomenon. “The Buhari Administration in 2017 approved and adopted the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (2017-2021) to strengthen the electoral process across the Federal, State and Local Government Levels to engender public confidence. The ultimate aim is to create a more credible electoral culture.” The ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that in the next few years, the commission will be combining aggressive enforcement and prevention measures, with developing knowledge driven policies that would guide the long-term sustainability of the war against corruption in the country, including political corruption and vote buying. He said: “The lCPC looks forward to collaboration with INEC to intensify enforcement of provisions of the Electoral Act dealing with electoral offences. Only collaboration with INEC can remove the legal hamstring such as is found in section 149 and 150 of the Electoral Act.” The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, who was represented by his Secretary, Olukayode Olanipekun, vows to always work with security operatives and the ICPC in the battle to stamp out vote buying and selling.]]>
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