August 29, 2022

Why we need an electoral offences body

Why we need an electoral offences body

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WE are strong advocates for an independent investigative and prosecutorial body to deal exclusively on electoral offenders. We have also pushed for the establishment of a tribunal in the likeness of the Election Petition Tribunal, to try electoral offenders, including violators of the law in pursuit of their cases at the Election Petition Tribunals.

We believe that the establishment of special courts as obtained in some other democracies, especially the United States where we copied the presidential system from, will help in strengthening the hand of the law in important efforts such as the war on corruption, terrorism/kidnapping and electoral offences.

Election rigging is the mother of all political crimes in a democracy. It produces incompetent and corrupt governments and politicians who weaponise poverty to maintain themselves in power. This is exactly the quagmire in which Nigerians find themselves. In most cases, electoral offenders go scot free. There is very little in our laws to put fear in election violators.

We need something like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to keep electoral offenders aware of the long arm of the law. The EFCC may be guilty of harbouring some bad eggs who extort the suspects they are investigating and prosecuting. However, it has a name recognition that resonates with the public and potential offenders to think twice before proceeding to commit their malfeasance.

Such a body must be totally independent. The argument that existing agencies are already doing the job of the proposed agency does not hold water. The Police and EFCC agents were very visible at the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where dollars were reportedly used to buy the delegates. How many culprits did they nab? The EFCC should face economic crimes.

The need for an electoral offences body dates back to 2009 when the Justice Mohammed Uwais panel recommended it as part of strategies to clean up our elections. This was echoed by the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu panel on the post-election violence of 2011, the Senator Ken Nnamani panel on Constitutional and Electoral Reform of 2017, as well as numerous other well-meaning Nigerians.

Ordinarily, no “independent” body such as INEC and the electoral offences agency should be appointed by the Executive or even the National Assembly, since they are players under the laws being enforced. Their heads should be appointed by the Judiciary or contested for.

We support INEC that under no circumstances should the Attorney- General of the Federation have any power to control any “independent” body, since the AGF is an appointee of the Executive.

We want an electoral offences body which can go beyond the street urchins who violate our elections and nail their sponsors, no matter how highly placed.