By Tunde Oguntola, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that the prosecution of electoral offenders has been one of the most challenging tasks for the commission since its establishment.
This is even as the electoral umpire also reiterated its appeal to the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2021 and the pending review of the electoral legal framework generally.
Speaking at a one-day public hearing on the National Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2021, organised by the Senate Committee on INEC on Wednesday in Abuja, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, noted that one of the numerous responsibilities carried out by the commission, is the prosecution of electoral offenders.
He, however, said the prosecution of electoral offenders has been one of the most challenging duty for the commission.
“For instance, since the 2015 general election, 125 cases of electoral offences were filed in various courts out of which 60 convictions have been secured so far, including the most recent one in Akwa Ibom State.
“The commission would like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of election results but most importantly their sponsors.
“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including party chieftains and candidates that seek to benefit from violations of the law, are apprehended. We believe that the work of the proposed Commission will help in this regard,” Yakubu said.
He, however, said INEC was confident that the National Assembly will conclude work on the legal framework for the expeditious passage of the Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill 2021 and the pending review of the electoral legal framework in earnest.
“No doubt, INEC is saddled with so many responsibilities ranging from the registration and regulation of political parties, registration of voters, delineation of constituencies, the conduct of elections/bye-elections/referendum/recall and prosecution of electoral offences, among others. The tasks are herculean,” he pointed out.
By the principle established by the commission, he said the 2023 general election will hold on Saturday, February 18, 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days away.
He said, “We hope to release the timetable and schedule of activities for the general election immediately after the Anambra governorship election scheduled to hold on 6 November, 2021.
“In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal framework to govern the election. We are confident that the National Assembly will do the needful in earnest.”
Yakubu said the commission will submit a detained clause-by-clause comment on the Bill to the Senate Committee on INEC ahead of the commencement of the committee’s technical work.
He also restated the commission’s support for the Bill and commended the initiative of its sponsors and the commitment of the leadership as well as the membership of the National Assembly to its actualisation.
“On behalf of the INEC, I would like to thank the leadership of the National Assembly and of the Senate Committee on INEC for the giant step of organising this public hearing,” he said.
Similarly, he thanked the trio of Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North), Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) and Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) for sponsoring the Bill.
He recalled that Senator Kyari, has been working on the Bill since 2016 when he was chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC in the 8th Assembly.
“At last, we are here today for public input into the Bill for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission 13 years after the recommendations of the Uwais Committee (2008), echoed by the Lemu Committee (2011) and, most recently, the Nnamani Committee (2017).
“In addition, there are recommendations along the lines of the Uwais Committee from the reports of the police investigation, INEC administrative enquiries, court judgements, reports by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and reports by several accredited election observers,” he added.