By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has implored the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor campaign finances of political parties and their candidates ahead of the 2019 elections.
The electoral body also said it is collaborating with the anti-graft agency ahead of Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State to curb vote burying.
The Chief Press Secretary of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, disclosed this in a statement Friday in Abuja, where he said that the decision was the outcome of a meeting between the electoral body and EFCC at its headquarters.
The electoral body said that unrepentant vote buyers and their potential customers run the risk of being arrested and prosecuted if they attempt to induce voters in the Saturday’s election.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who led a team of national commissioners to the meeting, affirmed that INEC was worried about vote buying and selling phenomenon and had already taken a number of steps to address the menace.
He explained that while the incidence of ballot box snatching and kidnapping of INEC officials had reduced significantly due to a number of strong reforms INEC had put in place to strengthen the electoral process, the vote buying and selling phenomenon was posing another worrisome challenge.
The chairman regretted that the commission had also recently observed increasing inducement through electronic transfers, whereby money is transferred into the accounts of some voters in order to influence their decisions on election day.
He noted: “We are here as part of our consultations with critical agencies that are connected to the electoral process. We have undertaken a number of innovations to strengthen the electoral system and these days, you hear less of ballot box snatching and kidnapping of INEC officials. But as we solve one problem, another one is coming up.
“Of immediate concern is the election we are holding on Saturday (September 22) in Osun State and it is going to be the last major election before the 2019 general election. We have taken steps as a commission, but we need the support of the EFCC in this respect.
“Vote buying and selling is earning a bad reputation for our democracy, for our elections and we thought we should visit national institutions like the EFCC because you have the powers under the law to arrest, to investigate, to prosecute and to help us. So we can stem this ugly tide of vote buying and selling. We believe that you have both the law and the capacity on your side to help us in this respect.”
According to him, “As we go into the elections proper in 2019, we also need your support in the area of campaign finance and spending by candidates. The law has prescribed limits as to what candidates can spend in elections but we need the enforcement of these laws. We don’t want the money bags to determine our democracy. We want the votes of the people to determine who wins in our elections.”
Meanwhile, the acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, said that there are concerns about vote buying and selling.
He added that there are also concerns about the possibility of money bags trying to derail the country’s democracy and democratic process.
He said: “We have the mandate to monitor money transfers and we are collaborating with the banks. We have the mandate to arrest, investigate and prosecute and we are going to use the (Osun governorship election) as a test case. We will work with you. We will do our best.”