The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the problem of vote buying and selling will fester unless the buyers and their sponsors are arrested and prosecuted by security agencies.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, stated this in Abuja on Saturday while speaking on the commission’s preparedness to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country in 2019.
Yakubu said a challenge was that INEC lacked the power to solely investigate and prosecute vote buyers, adding that this was why the commission had partnered with the police and other security and anti-graft agencies to arrest anybody caught engaging in the act.
The INEC chairman said the highest record of prosecution by the commission was in a constituency in Kano State in 2016, where the agency had successfully prosecuted 40 electoral offenders given various penalties in accordance with the law.
Yakubu said, “Some of the infractions take place as the voters move from the voting cubicles to the ballot boxes. Honestly, some of the agents of the vote buyers are among agents of political parties.
“To successfully prosecute vote buyers after arrest, we have to investigate first. INEC has no capacity to investigate vote buyers, and that is why we cannot prosecute them. That is why we are partnering with security agencies to achieve this.
“We have done so with some success. In some of the state constituency elections we conducted in Kano State in 2016, we worked with the police and successfully prosecuted over 40 electoral offenders. It is the highest in the history of the commission.
“The hoodlums at the polling units must have their sponsors prosecuted. If we don’t prosecute them, the problem will keep festering.”
The INEC chairman argued that elections were more credible in the country than before, noting that there had been general improvement in the process.
He said, “Today, we hear less and less of ballot boxes snatching. We hear less of ballot papers hijacking, as we move sensitive materials from the state secretariats to the ward levels and to the polling units. This means that elections are getting better in the country.
“We have 119,973 polling units nationwide. We know them and their coordinates. The polling units are configured into the Permanent Voter Cards.
“You cannot pick the PVCs for polling unit A and go for accreditation and voting in polling unit B. We have passed that stage. We know the total number of the voters on the voter register.
“Before the general elections, we will paste the voter register in 8,809 wards. So, citizens have an opportunity to see the voter register. Each political party is going to have the voters’ register.
“We will also give it to the political parties in the Osun election. So it is no longer a secret. We give the breakdown by wards, local governments and polling units.”