By Innocent Anaba
AHEAD of 2019 general elections, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof Yakubu Mahmood, yesterday in Asaba Delta State, reiterated his call for the establishment of an electoral offences commission, claiming that most electoral offences were poorly investigated by the Police.
Mahmood, at the 5th Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, Delta State capital, organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee, chaired by Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN, INEC chairman, represented by a National Commissioner and Head of Legal, May Agbamuche-Mbu, said:
“Another hurdle against the effective prosecution of electoral offences is the inefficiency of the criminal investigation machinery in Nigeria. The success or otherwise of the case of the prosecution depends largely on investigation. The commission’s legal officers rely on the outcome of the investigation conducted by the police.”
Mahmood said that investigating police officers usually return to their various postings after elections, while INEC’s ad-hoc staff, such as those on national youth service, may have passed out before investigation is concluded.
“The lack of statutory powers of the commission to make arrest and investigate violations has seriously impeded successful prosecution of electoral offenders.
It is in view of the challenges to effective prosecution of electoral offences in Nigeria that recommendations have been made by INEC itself and other stakeholders for an independent body to be established to handle prosecution of electoral offences with such powers as conferred on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC to arrest, investigate and prosecute electoral offenders,” he said.
According to him, a Bill for an Act to Establish the National Electoral Offences Commission was being considered by the National Assembly, saying: “The creation of the National Electoral Offences Commission conferred with powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute all election offenders will go a long way in reducing the spate of brazen impunity with which electoral offences are committed in this country.”