Lawmakers mull bill to prescribe punishment for electoral violence

The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, has hinted that the upper chamber of the National Assembly might introduce a bill that would prescribe punishment for perpetrators of violence during elections.

Abdullahi stated this on Tuesday while contributing to a motion moved by Senator George Sekibo, on the violence that rocked the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states on November 16.

He warned that any politician, irrespective of his or her political parties, could be a victim of violence during elections.

The Senate majority leader said this as the United Nations condemned the killings during the governorship election in Kogi State.

Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives said it would investigate the violence during the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

No fewer than six people were killed during the governorship election in Kogi State. On November 18, a Peoples Democratic Party women leader, Salome Abuha, was burnt to death when thugs set her home at Ochadamu in the Ofu Local Area of the state on fire.

At the Senate plenary on Tuesday, Abdullahi said there was the need for the two main political parties in the Senate to work together and save the nation’s electoral process.

He  said,  “It is important if the Minority Leader and I can come up with a by-partisan bill to look at the punishments for electoral violence.

“Let us see how we can raise a law to effectively tackle electoral violence because electoral violence knows no partisanship. All politicians on all sides are guilty.

“Electoral violence started from the beginning of our democratic journey in 1999, but it’s getting worse by the day. There were pockets of violence in other republics, but they were not as terrible as what we have today. If we don’t curb this phenomenon, it’s going to be dangerous for our country,” he added.

He admitted that the issue of electoral violence had been happening  since the beginning of the  present  republic in 1999.

He said, “The spectre of violence and its attendant consequences are some of the unhealthiest events in the country. I believe that all politicians, irrespective of the various parties we belong to, have a responsibility to address and to curb violence, otherwise we will all become victims.

“So, there is the need for us to urge the security agencies to really do their jobs. They should arrest and bring to book the perpetrators of the dastardly act, who are known.”

The Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe,  lamented that the security agencies had not successfully prosecuted the perpetrators of electoral violence.

He said, “People have been known and seen to perpetuate violence and nothing has been done to them. Once nothing is done to somebody, once nobody pays the price for criminality of this nature, it only creates further violence.

“The law enforcement agencies must be up to task. The husband of the woman that was killed in Kogi State has identified those who killed his wife but  till today, nothing has been done to them.

“We have heard all manner of excuses and there is now a pattern. If you don’t curb it through the use of enforcement, you will only see that pattern continue to grow.”

The senate consequently, condemned the spate of election-related violence in the country.

It observed a minute silence for all those who lost their lives in the violence during the governorship polls in   Bayelsa and Kogi states.

The upper chamber also urged the National Orientation Agency and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to carry out a detailed campaign against electoral violence in subsequent elections.

The Senate also urged the security agencies to expeditiously apprehend perpetrators of electoral violence in all the areas where they occurred and bring them to book.

The President of the Senate,  Ahmad Lawan, stressed the need for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of electoral violence in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

He said,  “No party is free from this blame, and it is for us as politicians to continue to enlighten our people to face politics as a game of ideas. I believe that those who perpetrated violence, especially in the last elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, should be apprehended and prosecuted. I believe that this is the way to go; people should pay the price of their actions.”

Sekibo had in his lead debate, noted  that armed thuggery has increased more in 2019 compared to previous elections.

He said privileged politicians used either armed thugs or security agents to disrupt smooth electioneering.

Sekibo noted that the effect of   mayhem would reduce the credibility of  electoral process and deepen hatred as well as widen the gap of our unity, if not checked.

He said, “The country’s electoral management body is not strong enough to withstand the pressure exerted by the political system. The electoral misconduct that accompanies it continue to threaten the deepening of democratization process.

“This negative effect of electoral violence in the country would continue to reduce the citizens’ confidence in the democratic process as well as heighten the fears of possible democratic collapse,” he added.

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