ABUJA— AT least one million suspects are to be prosecuted for electoral offences arising from the 2011 voter registration and general elections, the Chairman, INEC Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Lai Olurode, has said.
Olurode, who is also National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Training and Research, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, yesterday, in Abuja said the prosecution had been “a big problem”, because of paucity of funds and manpower.
He said the Independent National Electoral Commission was collaborating with the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to facilitate the prosecution at minimal costs, adding that Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe and Bayelsa were among states with the highest number of suspects.
Olurode said: “Some of those apprehended have been prosecuted and convicted but the number was just too small compared to those remaining”, adding that NBA as a body and stakeholder committed to sanitising electoral process in the country, had offered INEC a window that would lower the cost of prosecution.
He added: “All over the country, there are NBA branches and the branch in each state will take up the case and prosecute for INEC at an agreed fee. NBA is seeing the service, as a public service and an effort to sanitise the electoral system in Nigeria.”
Olurode called on government to work on the report of Uwais Electoral Reform Panel which had recommended that a separate body be set up to handle electoral offences.
The 22-member panel was set up in 2007 to, among others, fashion out strategies towards free and fair elections in Nigeria. Olurode called for increased police cooperation in INEC activities to facilitate prosecution of electoral offenders
INEC to re-strategise for smooth Edo 2012 poll
Meanwhile, ahead of July governorship election in Edo, Prof. Olurode expressed INEC readiness to re-strategise to ensure that people’s votes count.
He said the electoral body was re-strategising because fillers from various quarters indicated that things were getting charged up in the state and INEC needed to be in control.
Olurode noted: “INEC has attained a measure of success in the collation of results, timely delivery of election materials and arrival of poll officials at their polling units,” stressing that the commission would create a level-playing field and secure the polling arena in a way that the electorate would not feel intimidated by any party.
The INEC commissioner said the commission noticed voter apathy in some of the recent elections because of fear of violence and hijack of ballot boxes, adding that security operatives were cooperating with INEC in its efforts to conduct smooth election in Edo.
Olurode said the malpractices observed at some polling units during past elections were inimical to the conduct of free and fair elections.
He noted: “We have seen cases where many people are not seen voting at polling units but at the end of the day you see larger votes recorded for the units, and you know that something has gone wrong.”
He said INEC was bent on policing polling units more effectively to make peoples’ votes count.”
“People stay away because of the possibility of violence and this is a sign that their vote will not count and INEC will never be part to this, so security of lives and property is of great concern to INEC.”
The national commissioner said that although Nigeria had yet to attain perfection in election matters, the commission was doing all it could to reduce malpractices during polls.
“There is nowhere in the world where the entire election process is flawless, there will have to be some hitches, but the commission is working on this.”
He said the electoral body noticed some imperfection in the activities of ad- hoc staff as some of them were infiltrated by some politicians.
Olurode said that INEC changed its strategy and employed more that 400,000 youths during the last elections and they did far better than the ad-hoc staff.
He said there are other areas that needed to be fine-tuned and INEC was working towards achieving greater success in such areas.