The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hinted yesterday that it is considering burning about eight million unclaimed permanent voter cards (PVCs) before the 2019 general election in order to have credible and transparent polls.
The commission explained that the action is to sanitise the electoral lists and register before the election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ondo State, Mr. Rufus Akeju, who gave the hint during a chat with journalists in Akure, the state capital, said the unclaimed PVCs in Ondo state for instance, might belong to those who only visited the state during the registration and decided to register during the period.
According to him, these people may have abandoned the cards since they have moved to another state.
Akeju said the visitors might include federal civil servants, graduated students or members of the National Youth Service Corps posted to the state or transiting for just a short period of stay.
“These set of people who own these unclaimed PVCs might have moved out of the state to another location, either by transit as students or NYSC members and left them in our offices”, he stated.
Noting that the electoral commission had made several attempts to reach out to owners of the unclaimed PVCs through enlightenment and public advocacy, Akeju said all the efforts have not yielded any positive result.
He said, “We (INEC) may have to dispose the yet unclaimed Permanent Voters Cards as many of them have been linked to double registration or an attempt by politicians to have their way during the elections
“In fact, we might also even decide not to burn them but probably pour chemical on them. All our attempt is to protect the integrity of the elections but we are yet to really decide on it,” he said.
The REC further disclosed that a total of 370,464 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected in Ondo State.
He said that the cards were being kept across the offices of INEC in the 18 local government areas of the state.
Akeju added that the state had been able to distribute a total of 1,288,722 cards in preparation for the election.
According to the REC, there is no going back on ensuring a very transparent and credible general election in Ondo State in 2019.
He also disclosed that the commission had possessed new and improved Data Capturing Machine for the smooth running of the ongoing voters registration.
The director of voter education and publicity, Barr Oluwole Osaze Ussi, told LEADERSHIP last night that the number of unclaimed PVCs is put at 8 million.
He however added that the number sometimes fluctuates depending on the collection.
. . .Urges NASS To Pass Electoral Offences Commission Bill
Meanwhile, the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday urged the National Assembly to expedite the passage of the bill for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission.
If passed into law, the bill is required to effectively prosecute violators of the country’s electoral laws.
Yakubu stated this at a public hearing on a Bill to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission organised by Senate Committees on INEC and Judiciary.
The commission, according to Yakubu, is very necessary in solving the challenges being faced by the electoral body on electoral offences or cases, which he said are about 1080 from the 2015 general election and subsequent bye-elections.
He further stated that 124 of the cases were filed and 60 convictions secured in various courts across the country.
Yakubu expressed dismay that reports of the Electoral Reform Committee (the Uwais Report) 2008 and the Post-election Violence (Lemu Report) 2011 had been left to gather dusts on the shelves.
According to the INEC boss, the two reports had recommended the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission/Tribunal to address all forms of electoral violence and impunity that have continued to undermine the stability of the nation’s electoral democracy.
He bemoaned the fact that though it has the powers to prosecute, INEC lack the powers to effect the arrest of electoral offenders, a situation he said has continued to hamper effective prosecution of offenders.
His words: “While the Uwais Report was transmitted by the executive to the National Assembly in 2010, the White Paper on recommendations of the Lemu Report directed the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take steps towards the establishment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal.
“Nearly a decade later, there has been no legislative action on these aspects of the recommendations of the Uwais and Lemu reports, making the present effort by the Senate and the concurrent effort by the House of Representatives a welcome development
“The failure to systematically and consistently enforce sanctions has encouraged impunity and the violence that often characterise electoral contest in Nigeria, thereby subverting the will of the people and undermining the nation’s electoral democracy.
“At present, INEC is saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders. Section 150(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) empowers INEC to prosecute electoral offenders through its legal officers or any legal practitioner appointed by it without the powers to arrest and investigate, thus depending on the police for this purpose.
“Without the capacity to make arrest and investigate violations, the prosecutorial role is severely hampered. INEC cannot effectively focus on this role given its other variegated responsibilities under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)”.
Yakubu further described the convictions recorded so far as a far cry from the large number of electoral offences that occurred in the period under review.
“There are several factors responsible for the inadequate success, ranging from the huge prosecutorial task, dependence on other agencies for arrest and investigation, time and resources against the backdrop of INEC’s extensive responsibilities of conducting elections and managing pre and post election litigations”, he added.
INEC and other stakeholders hold the view that if passed into law, the National Electoral Offences Commission will be vested with the powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute all violators of electoral laws.
This, according to them, will go a long way in ensuring that perpetrators of electoral offences are punished, even as it will also ensure speedy and effective prosecution of offenders.
Chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, noted that over the years, statistics showed that the various electoral offences and crimes orchestrated by politicians have cast shadows on the nation’s electoral process.
He said, “Subsequently, due to human dynamics, crimes and offences of election tend to evolve. Therefore, we must look beyond the usual offences and into new trends of wider social electoral offences and crimes that have evaded justice for too long.
“Furthermore, it is expected of us to rekindle our thoughts and cast our vast experiences to forge ways of strengthening this bill, as it bears direct consequential effect on our democracy”.
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