Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has thrown its weight behind the plan to set up Electoral Offences Commission.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this yesterday during a public hearing on ‘A bill to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission and for other matters connected therewith, 2017 (SB469)’ organised by Senate Joint Committees on INEC, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Yakubu described the proposed establishment of Electoral Offences Commission as a welcome development with potential to enhance the quality of the electoral process.
According to him, the consideration and passage of the bill was long overdue given the strong advocacy by two previous Committees set up by the federal government-the Electoral Reform Committee (the Uwais Report)2008 and the Committee on the Post-election Violence (the Lemu Report 2011).
He noted: “In their mutually reinforcing recommendations, the two committees strongly advocated the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission/ Tribunal for the enforcement of laws to address all forms of electoral offences and consequently stem the incidence of electoral violence that has undermined the stability and progress of Nigeria’s electoral democracy.’’
He argued that the failure to systematically and consistently enforce sanctions had encouraged impunity and violence that often characterise electoral contest in Nigeria, thereby subverting the will of the people and undermining the country’s electoral democracy.
The INEC Chairman added that though at present, INEC was saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders through its legal officers or any legal practitioner appointed but such authority was hampered by lack of powers to arrest and investigate which made the commission dependent on the police.
“Without the capacity to make arrest and investigate violations, the prosecutorial role is severely hampered. INEC cannot effectively focus on the role of prosecuting electoral offenders given the variegated responsibilities assigned to it under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended),” he explained.
Yakubu cautioned the National Assembly on some implications of the proposed bill for consideration before its final enactment, which include: composition of members, appointment of the Secretary to the Commission, specificity of concepts, size and responsibility of departments, and advocated for the inclusion of representatives of special action groups.