Various stakeholders- the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), among others- gathered in Abuja Monday to address the influence of money in the 2023 general elections.
Addressing the gathering, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu also said in preparation for the 2023 general elections, the commission would today sign the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road and marine transport unions.
These, he said, included the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) for land transportation and the Marine Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) for the riverine areas.
On the inducement of voters during elections, Yakubu stated that “the negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of our democracy.”
He said: “Money destroys the very basis of democratic elections which is that citizens should freely choose those who exercise power on their behalf.
“It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections.
“Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering.
“Above all, the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a “win at all costs” mentality among contestants who would have invested a fortune in election.
“Surely, election is not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion.
“But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money.”
The INEC boss explained some of the measures deployed by the electoral management body to stop the influence of money during elections, especially on the ”diabolical purchase of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) from voters ahead of the election and vote buying at polling units on election day.”
He said: “Over the years, we introduced a number of measures, including the slight reconfiguration of our polling units to bring the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles to discourage the exposure of the marked ballot papers by voters to vote buyers.
“We also banned the use of smart phones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success.
“Today, we commence yet another initiative to sanitise and strengthen our electoral process. We believe that in dealing with the corruption of our elections by money, the commission cannot do it alone.
“To succeed, we must mobilise every relevant national institution to support our effort. We must rely on the professional and other capacities of cognate agencies in our determination to improve electoral administration in Nigeria.”
Yakubu, however, noted that “the actions of the agencies are critical but will not be enough to completely root out the deep-seated cancer of corrupt money in our elections.”
“They (citizens) must also engage effectively in stopping the negative use of money in our electoral process generally by reporting cases to INEC and other agencies.
“In addition, civil society organisations should make this a major plank of both their pre-election and election observation activities. Financial institutions, religious organisations, traditional institutions, the media, civic bodies and, above all, citizens must also join in this fight.
“Let me seize this opportunity to remind the public that the ban on cell phones at voting cubicles is still in force. We have for some time now reorganised our polling units so that ballot boxes are placed next to the voting cubicles to forestall the practice by unscrupulous voters of showing their marked ballot papers to vote buyers.
“We appeal to voters to draw the attention of our polling officials wherever they observe that these basic rules are not complied with,” Yakubu said.
Also speaking, Inspector General of Police Baba Alkali said “concerted efforts are being made by the Nigeria Police as the lead agency in electoral security management to ensure that the use of money is not allowed to influence the 2023 general elections or at least ensure that this menace is brought to the barest minimum.”
Represented by Assistant Inspector General of Police Bala Corona, Alkali said: “We will achieve this in synergy with sister security agencies, anti-graft and intelligence agencies and other stakeholders.
“The result of this synergy has started yielding positive results as a lot of arrest have been made especially of persons buying voter registration cards as prelude to rigging the elections.
“Some political thugs have also been arrested and are being prosecuted in courts of competent jurisdiction. We will also ensure that the police X-squad, intelligence officers and investigators are moved to the field to ensure that politicians moving on election days with tonnes of physical cash for vote buying are apprehended and dealt with according to the provisions of the law.
“We have also deployed intelligence officers who will get embedded in the crowd during political rallies to identify with precision persons encouraging or perpetrating violence.
“Let me state again emphatically that the use of money during the 2023 elections is unacceptable and we will do all we can within the confines of the law to bring offending persons to book.
“Therefore, all hands are on deck and all the relevant security agencies are in synergy on this. We intend to provide a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of 2023 elections.”
For the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), led by Sani Yabagi, “all stakeholders and lovers of democracy, peace and stability of the country must rise up against the use of money to subvert the wish of the people.”
He said “these lofty desirable and achievable goals can only become a reality if INEC, security agencies, the judiciary and all other stakeholders in the electoral process are resolute and impartially play their roles in ensuring free, fair and credible elections in 2023.”
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