The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, was recently quoted as saying that political parties in the country budgeted money used to bribe security agents and officials of the electoral body during elections. However, the INEC boss, who spoke at a two-day Roundtable Conference with the theme, “Party Politics in Nigeria and Lobbying, the Lobbyist and the Legislature” in Abuja recently failed to mention one instance or the other of the alleged practice and those involved in the electoral infraction. That notwithstanding, what Jega has said is not new.
The public is aware that something akin to what Jega has disclosed obtains in our polity. We do not need a Jega or an oracle to tell us what we already know. But we had expected that Jega would come up with specific details about the alleged perfidy that has enveloped our electoral system. By not giving details of the odious practice, Jega has scratched the matter on the surface. His intervention would have been helpful if he had provided insight into what government is doing to curtail electoral malpractices and make our elections more credible and acceptable.
We hope that Jega is not seeking for an alibi to hang his future predictable failure. He should not only bemoan the situation, he should be able to proffer solution to the problem. By the way, what has INEC done to curb electoral malpractices in the country or bring to book the perpetrators of various electoral offences? In the past general polls, many electoral offenders were apprehended for some electoral offences, but up till now, nothing has really come out of it. INEC even vowed to prosecute them and advocated for the setting up of special courts for electoral offenders to enable it carry out a diligent trial.
Section 124 (1) paragraphs a-e of the Electoral Act 2010 and Independent National Electoral Commission’s Law are very explicit on what constitutes bribery and conspiracy regarded as electoral offences. Paragraph (d) sees as an electoral offender any person who “advances or pays or causes to be paid any money to or for the use of any other person, with the intent that such money or any part thereof shall be expended in bribery at any election or who knowingly pays or causes to be paid any money to any person in discharge or repayment of any money wholly or in part expended in bribery at any election.”
Also, Section 123 (4) states that “any person who commits the offence of bribery is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.” The Electoral Act 2010 is replete with offences and penalties, yet no person has been prosecuted and punished for committing electoral offence or offences. The right thing to be done now is to ensure that those who flout electoral laws are apprehended and prosecuted. It is by so doing that others may be deterred from committing such electoral infractions.
All concerned government agencies should henceforth ensure that all electoral offenders are prosecuted and those found guilty are punished in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010. We believe that the Nigeria Police should play an important role in the apprehension and trial of electoral offenders. INEC should stop lamenting and do something to make our electoral system clean and acceptable.