- Vows to stop vote buying
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will henceforth work with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute leaders of political parties and candidates who violate constitutional provisions on spending limits during elections.
The commission also expressed worry over rising incidence of vote-buying that has characterised elections in the country in recent times, vowing to put a stop to it in subsequent elections.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this during the visit of the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, to INEC headquarters in Abuja thursday.
Speaking while receiving the EFCC chairman, the INEC boss restated that the commission would not be biased or work for any candidate or political party in the conduct of the next general election.
On the strategies for the 2019 general election, Yakubu said the commission would collaborate with the EFCC to check the activities of corrupt elements who are out to circumvent the electoral process.
He said the commission was concerned about the rising incidence of open vote-buying, adding that it would not tolerate open vote-buying during the next general election.
Yakubu equally solicited the support of the EFCC to check the trend.
â€œAs we approach the 2019, INEC will require the support of your commission essentially in two ways. Number one is that INEC is worried about the recent trend of open vote-buying in polling stations.
â€œParties and their candidates besiege the polling units with the aim of enticing voters with money. Votes of the electorate are to determine who wins election. Our democracy should never be for sale in the open market. The will of the people must be reflected at all times.
â€œWe hope to be working closely with the EFCC. Open vote-buying will not be tolerated by the commission and the winner of future elections will be determined by the number of votes cast.
â€œThe second issue revolves around party campaign funds. The Electoral Act places limit to the amount parties and individuals should spend in an election and also the limit to the amount friends of candidates and parties can contribute in any election.
â€œThe EFCC has the capacity to track and trace sources of such funds, and we the commission will work very closely with them so that we operate within the limits of the law,â€ he said.
Another issue the INEC boss highlighted was the limitation on the election expenditure, which he said has become subject of abuse by candidates and political parties.
He said the commission intends to collaborate with the EFCC in order to ensure that politicians that breach the law are apprehended and made to face the consequences.
INEC boss was delighted with the visit of the anti-corruption agency to the commission.
Yakubu promised that INEC would remain an unbiased agency and would not work for any candidate or party in an election.
He recalled the steps taken by the commission in addressing cases of 205 staff indicted for election crimes, adding that
â€œI want to assure Nigerians that INEC will remain an unbiased umpire. We will not work for any candidate or party. We are here to work for the Nigerian people, on election day, the vote of the people will determine the winner of the election.â€
Yakubu who said over 7,000 staff of the commission were promoted last year as part of effort to reward hard work, however regretted that about 85 staff have lost their lives since the last general election due to stress of work.
In his remarks, Magu said the commission was ready to support INEC in discharging its mandate to deliver credible elections.
He, however, noted that said that corruption has risen to become the worst enemy of the country, adding that the scourge affects everybody and hence the need for all to join hands to fight it.
â€œI want to appeal to every Nigerian to join in the fight against corruption. Corruption is disaster because it has done much damage to this country.
â€œFor me, I believe that INEC is also fighting corruption though not in the same way that the EFCC is doing it, but through conducting of credible election.