OrderPaperToday – A Bill for an Act to establish a National Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal has on Thursday, scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.
The proposed legislation seeking to provide a legal framework for the Investigation and Prosecution of Electoral Offences for the general Improvement of the Electoral Process in Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HBs.753, 1589, 695, 1372 and 1472), is jointly sponsored by Aishatu Dukku, Francis Charles Uduyok, Kingsley Chinda and John Dyegh.
Leading the debate on its general principles, one of the sponsors, Dukku, said electoral crimes lead to low quality, corrupt and violent political leadership and helps election riggers and offenders take control of the government against the democratic will of the electorate.
Dukku, who chairs the House Committee on Electoral Matters, said decisive deterrent through efficient criminal prosecution is the most effective strategy for defeating electoral offenders.
According to her, INEC does not have the needed human capacity to prosecute electoral offences committed across Nigeria’s 119,973 polling units, 8809 wards, 360 federal constituencies, 109 senatorial districts and 774 local government areas.
“By these statistics, it is unrealistic to expect INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections, and simultaneously prosecute offences arising from the same elections.
Indeed, INEC itself has admitted that it lacks the wherewithal to cleanse the system. Its failure to prosecute even 1 per cent of the 870,000 alleged electoral offences in 2011 is an affirmation of the necessity of a paradigm shift on how we deal with electoral offences.
And the inability to prosecute electoral offenders has helped to sustain a reign of systemic election rigging, election violence which deters the participation of especially the women from participating in elections and it also leads to voter registration manipulation, vote-buying, disinformation, declaration of false election results, destruction or invalidation of valid ballots, tampering with election systems and voter impersonation.
This fuels the patriotic call for INEC to be divested of that statutory duty. It is widely agreed that this duty is an undue burden on INEC. It distracts INEC from its core constitutional mandate of conducting a free and fair election,” she said.
Speaking in favour of the bill, Chief Whip of the House, Mohammed Monguno said the bill is relevant to the quest for Nigeria to attain a truly democratic status in the comity of nations.
This is especially against the backdrop of the clamour to deliver an election that is transparent, fair and accountable to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of this country.
READ ALSO: Senate okays Electoral Offences Commission
“And as a legislature that is responsive and responsible for the yearnings and aspirations of the people that gave us the sacred mandate to represent them, it behoves us as per Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that gave us the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country, to enact the Electoral Act to make it ‘octotonous,’ that means to make it (to be) in consonance with the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
You cannot give what you don’t have. So, against this backdrop, there is the need for us to enact or reform our electoral system through the Electoral Act and give Nigerians a system that is going to throw up leaders that are accountable and responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people, and give elections that are truly credible and transparent to the Nigerian public.
It was against this backdrop that this bill was initiated to capture the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians,” Monguno added.
To this end, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila referred the bill to the House Committee on Electoral matters for further legislative input.
The House has adjourned plenary for two weeks due to the Eid-el Kabir Celebrations.
Gbajabiamila who disclosed this while at the plenary said the lawmakers will resume on 19th July, and attend to their legislative duties for a few days before embarking on a two-month annual vacation.