By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka—THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, said it would soon approach the National Assembly to canvass for early passage of the Electoral Offences Commission Bill to stem the tide of impunity in the electoral process in the country.
INEC national commissioner in charge of information and voter education, Chief Festus Okoye, who spoke at the presentation of certificates to the newly elected members of the Anambra State House of Assembly in Awka, explained that the idea was to ensure that those who deliberately and maliciously corrupt the electoral process are punished in accordance with the law.
According to him, the absence of clearly defined institution that should be responsible for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders has led to heightened electoral malfeasance, resulting in the storming of collation centres and forcing officers to make returns at gunpoint.
He said: “It has led to the maiming and killing of ad-hoc staff without sanctions. We are fast approaching a point where parents and guardians will not be willing to release their sons and daughters doing their national youth service to participate in the electoral process because no parent or guardian will agree to release their ward to be harassed, maimed or killed in the name of national service.
“Non participation of our best and brightest, fresh from tertiary institutions will leave the commission with the option of harvesting its ad-hoc staff from sources whose loyalty to the national cause is questionable.
“The situation must, therefore, be stemmed for the future of the electoral process and the health of our democracy.”
Okoye also expressed concern at what he called the illegal and illicit approaches being made by some political parties and their candidates to collation, presiding and supervisory presiding officers, as well as other categories of ad-hoc staff recruited by the commission for the purposes of conducting elections.
“Some of these officers are recruited in strict confidentiality and yet desperate politicians go to a great length to find them and corrupt them. To this extent, the commission will carry out internal assessment and audit of its recruitment processes and procedures for better protection of the processes,” he said.