By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sued the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over failure to prosecute those suspected of vote-buying and electoral bribery during the recently concluded Ekiti State governorship election.
This followed reports of brazen pattern of vote-buying and electoral bribery in several polling units during the recently concluded Ekiti governorship election, including bargaining prices for votes and payments made in uncompleted buildings.
In the suit filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, sought, “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to seek and obtain detailed information about reports of vote-buying by the three leading political parties in the 2022 Ekiti State governorship election.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to promptly and effectively prosecute those arrested, and to bring to justice anyone who sponsored, aided and abetted them.”
SERAP maintained that, “Vote buying is a threat to fair and representative elections. Vote buying amounts to undue influence and improper electoral influence.”
According to SERAP, “Wealthy candidates and their sponsors ought not to be allowed to profit from their crimes. Arresting and prosecuting vote buyers will end widespread impunity for vote buying ahead of the February 2023 general elections.
“Vote buying encourages poor governance and weakens citizens’ capacity to hold their ‘elected officials’ accountable for their actions.
“Vote buying undermines the ability of INEC to discharge its responsibilities under Section 153 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule of the Constitution, and the Electoral Act 2022.”
“Agents of the three dominant political parties in the state, namely All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), were reportedly involved in buying votes across the state, and voters offered as high as N10,000 in exchange for their votes.
“The Nigerian Constitution provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
“Section 145(2) of the Electoral Act provides that, ‘a prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.’”
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.