… condemns INEC’s failure to reprimand Buhari for public display of thumbprint ballot paper

By Daniel Kanu

A new Report by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has listed infractions that dented Nigeria’s 2023 elections, just as it lauded areas of success and lessons learnt for improvement.
It provided recommendations to improve future elections.

But the report flayed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its failure to reprimand President Muhammadu Buhari after displaying his ballot paper during the vote on the February 25 presidential and National Assembly Elections.

The 44-page report titled: Unpacking Nigeria’s 2023 Elections, is CAPPA’ research towards improving Nigeria’s electoral process.

Recall that after Buhari voted during the presidential election, he displayed his ballot paper to show people the presidential candidate of his choice.

That action of the president violated Section 129 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 as Amended which stipulates that: “Exhibiting Party or election related symbols within the vicinity of a polling unit or collation Centre on the day of election is an electoral offense that attracts a fine of N100, 000 or imprisonment for 6 months.”

CAPPA, in its report which was unveiled on Friday, May 23 in Lagos, said the failure of INEC to issue a reprimand against Buhari, sets a dangerous precedence.

Part of the report reads: “Central to the integrity of any election is the fair and unbiased conduct of all participants, including candidates, the electorate, supporters, political figures, and election officials.

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“However, recent events during the 2023 general elections have raised concerns regarding the enforcement of electoral laws, particularly in relation to high –profile individuals who seemingly act with impunity.

“A glaring example of the disregard for electoral regulations occurred when President Muhammadu Buhari publicly displayed his ballot paper, revealing his thumbprint in favour of the APC Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.

“The action directly contradict the Electoral Act 2022…Surprisingly, President Buhari has not faced any penalties or reprimand from INEC for their clear violations of the law.”

The report commended INEC for incorporating technologies into the electoral system, especially the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal, which it said, inspired and heightened sense of civic awareness among Nigerians.

The report, however, noted that the failure of INEC to transmit the presidential election results to its result-viewing portal on Election Day was a significant dent on the integrity of the process.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director at CAPPA, said that the aftermath of the elections raised critical questions which the report tried to provide answers to.

Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA’s Research and Policy Officer, said the report was the product of onsite and offsite monitors who provided the information upon which the report was hinged on.

Aderonke Ige, an associate director at CAPPA, said the organization had provided training to election monitors including the media before the election, deployed personnel to monitor the election, and has now done a post mortem of the outcome.

Director of Programmes at CACOL, Tola Oresanwo, said aggressive education of the public remains the fastest way of effecting positive change in Nigeria’s electoral process.
The report recommended that “security agencies must ensure that perpetrators of violence, hate speech, intimidation among are arrested and prosecuted.
“That there is need to strengthen the INEC by granting it more autonomy.
“That there is need to consider an amendment to the electoral law to ensure electronic voting.
‘that INEC should work together with relevant parastatals and stakeholders such as the National Information Technology Development Agency, Ministry of Communications and Cyber security outfits to safeguard it’s digital electronic assets.”.