Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN has commended the fiat given to the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to prosecute 1,076 electoral crime suspects arrested during elections across the country. He says the move will curb impunity that threatens electoral integrity across the country.
Towards the success of the prosecutions, NBA has raised 191 lawyers, including 16 senior advocates(SANs) to handle the trials.
Falana’s statement reads:
KUDOS TO INEC & NBA FOR THE PLANNED TRIAL OF 1,076 ELECTION CRIME SUSPECTS
The Independent National Electoral Commission is empowered by section 145 of the Electoral Act 2022 to try electoral crime suspects in a Magistrate Court or a High Court of a State in which the offence is committed, or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. But as the INEC is completely preoccupied, it has been hampered in the prosecution of electoral offenders that have continued to subvert the democratic process. Happily, the Nigerian Bar Association decided to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission in the prosecution of the election crime suspects that were arrested in all the states of the Federation during the general election held in Nigeria between February and March 2023.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Bar Association deserve commendation for the proposed prosecution of the 1,076 persons indicted in electoral malpractice during the last general election. The intended prosecution will substantially dissuade impunity that threatens electoral integrity in the country. Indeed, the importance of the prosecution is underscored by the decision of the NBA leadership to nominate 191 lawyers, including 16 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
Having confirmed that the INEC has given fiats to the prosecutors in accordance with the provisions of section 145(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, we call on the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to fast track the investigation of the suspected electoral offenders that were arrested during the recent gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo States. We equally appeal to all democratic forces to support the initiative and monitor the prosecution of the electoral crime suspects. It is by ensuring the successful prosecution of the electoral offenders that Nigeria can put an end to the brazen manipulation of the democratic process by members of the political class and their cohorts.
However, since this is an ad hoc arrangement, we urge the two houses of the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act 2022 to empower the Federal Government to establish an Electoral Offences Commission to arrest, investigate and prosecute all electoral offenders in line with the recommendation of the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel. The legislators should realise that unless electoral offenders are severely sanctioned, election results will continue to be determined by election petition tribunals and the courts.
Femi Falana SAN
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