Akwanga (Nasarawa State) – The National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified three major factors hindering successful prosecution of electoral offences in the country.
Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC National Commissioner, listed political interference, lack of human and material resources as some the major factors.
She stated this on Friday in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, at the opening of a two-day training on prosecution of election offences for the commission’s legal personnel and police officers.
The workshop was organised and sponsored by European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
NAN also reports that over 100 INEC legal personnel and Police officers drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country are attending the training.
Agbamuche -Mbu, who is also the Chairperson, Legal Services of the commission, lauded ECES for funding the training programme, saying the workshop would enhance the capacity of legal officers of INEC and Police officers in the prosecution of electoral offences.
“Our capacity in terms of resources and personnel is simply not large enough to prosecute offences in 120,000 polling units; 8,809 wards, 360 federal constituencies, 109 senatorial districts and 774 local government areas.
“Political interference is also a factor such as instances where Attorneys-General file Nolle Prosequi for such cases, rendering the Commission powerless.
“Now, more than ever, there is the need to prevent, curtail and manage various offences.
“Recent happenings in Ekiti State during the just concluded Governorship Election have thrown up the need for a closer look at our prosecutorial efforts in the area of electoral offences.
“Vote buying has become an issue as witnessed in the Ekiti State Governorship Election and INEC cannot stand aloof and allow its efforts in planning successful election be thrown into disrepute. We must protect the secrecy and sanity of the vote.
“Prosecution of offences is fraught with many difficulties. Traditionally, the police are charged with the duty of investigating these offences, yet we find that the officers who witnessed the offence and made the arrest are moved out of location after the election,” she noted.
The INEC official expressed optimism that participants at the training would brainstorm on issues of adequacy of the law in prosecution of electoral offences, capacity of the staff to handle such, capacity and willingness of police to investigate and stringency of penalties, among others.
Agbamuche-Mbu restated the commitment of the commission to conduct free, credible and acceptable election as well as prosecuting electoral offences.
Earlier, Mr Rudolf Elbling, the Project Coordinator, ECES Nigeria, said that that the training was to boost the confidence of the legal officers and positively reposition them in handling election petitions.
Elbling, who was represented by Maria Teresa Mauro, the Senior Election Expert (Legal), ECES Nigeria, restated the centre’s commitment to continue to support INEC and other organisations for democratic governance in Nigeria. (NAN)