The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to create a National Electoral Offences Commission and an Electoral Offences Tribunal.
The House had harmonised the version earlier passed by the Senate and transmitted to it for concurrence, with five similar bills sponsored by its members.
The consolidated bill was jointly sponsored by the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (on behalf of the Senate); Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Dukku; John Dyeh, Francis Uduyok and Kingsley Chinda.
The legislation is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish National Electoral Offences Commission and the Electoral Offences Tribunal to Provide for the Legal Framework for Investigation and Prosecution of Electoral Offences for the general Improvement of the Electoral Process in Nigeria; and for Related Matters.’
At the plenary on Thursday, the Majority Whip, Mohammed Monguno, who led the debate on the bill on behalf of the Majority Leader, justified the proposal while highlighting the benefits for the electoral system and the electorate.
Monguno said, “This bill is very relevant and germane to the dream or quest for Nigeria to attain a truly democratic status in the comity of nations, especially against the backdrop of the clamour to deliver an election that is transparent, fair and accountable to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of this country.
“As a legislature that is responsive and responsible for the yearnings and aspirations of the people that gave us the sacred mandate to represent them, it behoves us as per Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that gave us the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country, to enact the Electoral Act to make it ‘octotonous;’ that means to make it (to be) in consonance with the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
“To have an Electoral Act that delivers a transparent and credible election is sine qua non to the attainment of true democracy and it is an instrument of getting a leadership, both at Executive and the Legislative levels, that can truly answer their name as representatives of the people that can be held accountable, responsible and responsive to the mandate that they are given to serve.
“You cannot give what you don’t have. So, against this backdrop, there is the need for us to enact or reform our electoral system through the Electoral Act and give Nigerians a system that is going to throw up leaders that are accountable and responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people, and give elections that are truly credible and transparent to the Nigerian public. It was against this backdrop that this bill was initiated to capture the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
In her contribution, Dukku noted that electoral crimes lead to low quality, corrupt and violent political leadership. She added that the situation helps election riggers and offenders take control of the government against the democratic will of the electorate. She stated that a decisive deterrent through efficient criminal prosecution is the most effective strategy for defeating electoral offenders.
Dukku said, “INEC clearly does not have the needed human capacity to prosecute electoral offences committed across Nigeria’s 119,973 polling units, 8809 wards, 360 federal constituencies, 109 senatorial districts and 774 local government areas. By these statistics, it is unrealistic to expect INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections, and simultaneously prosecute offences arising from the same elections.
“Indeed, INEC itself has admitted that it lacks the wherewithal to cleanse the system. Its failure to prosecute even 1 per cent of the 870,000 alleged electoral offences in the 2011 elections is an affirmation of the necessity of a paradigm shift in how we deal with electoral offences. And the inability to prosecute electoral offenders has helped to sustain a reign of systemic election rigging, election violence which deters the participation of especially the women from participating in elections and it also leads to voter registration manipulation, vote-buying, disinformation, declaration of false election results, destruction or invalidation of valid ballots, tampering with election systems and voter impersonation.
“These fuel the patriotic call for INEC to be divested of that statutory duty. It is widely agreed that this duty is an undue burden on INEC. It distracts INEC from its core constitutional mandate of conducting a free and fair election. Some human rights activists have even argued that under our criminal jurisprudence, it is unsound for INEC to double as the complainant and prosecutor in matters of alleged electoral offences.”