In other to curb the impunity of Nigerian politicians over crimes committed during elections, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has demanded from the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the extent the lower chamber has gone to enact the Electoral Offences Commission Bill into law.
The Senate had passed the bill and pushed it to the lower chamber where it is currently gathering dust.
Recently, Nigerians has watched helplessly how politicians have corrupted the electoral process through vote buying. The two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), and the Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) shamelessly engaged in buying delegates during their convention where their presidential flag bearers emerged. The same vote buying was the main style of rigging at the just concluded Ekiti State Governorship elections.
Although the Electoral Act criminalized vote buying and other electoral offences, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is considered to be too burdened with the conduct of elections and to add prosecution of electoral offenders to its task will be too much. The Electoral Offences Commission Bill was introduced at the National Assembly in 2021 to take care of the lacuna. However, nothing was heard about the progress of the bill, hence Falana’s letter.
The letter reads:
Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila,
The Honourable Speaker,
House of Representatives,
National Assembly Complex,
Three Arms Zone,
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON ELECTORAL OFFENCES COMMISSION BILL
As you are no doubt aware, the Independent National Electoral Commission was empowered to prosecute electoral offenders under section 150 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 as amended. But the INEC was unable to discharge the statutory duty due to alleged lack of wherewithal. Hence, its failure to prosecute even one per cent of the 870,000, 900,000 and 1,100,000 million electoral offenders arrested during the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections respectively.
In order to stop the increasing wave of electoral impunity the Senate passed the Electoral Offences Commission Bill on July 14, 2021 and forwarded same to the House of Representatives. But the Bill has been ignored due to reasons best known to the members of the House of Representatives under your watch. Hence, section 145 of the Electoral Act 2022 has vested the Independent National Electoral Commission with the statutory duty to prosecute electoral offenders in the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 States of the Federation.
Even though sections 114-121 of the Electoral Act have made adequate provisions for electoral offences the Independent National Electoral Commission does not have the capacity to arrest, investigate and prosecute electoral offenders. In the atmosphere of official impunity the leading members of the political class have engaged themselves in the dollarisation of the electoral process, vote buying, intimidation of political opponents, killing and thuggery, ballot snatching e.t.c
In view of the foregoing, we are compelled to request the Honourable Speaker to furnish us with information on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill passed by the Senate and forwarded to the House of Representatives since July last year. As this request is made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 you are requested to provide the requested information within seven days of the receipt of this letter.
TAKE NOTICE that if you fail or refuse to accede to our request we shall not hesitate to file an application for mandamus at the Federal High Court to compel you to disclose the requested information.
FEMI FALANA, SAN, FCI Arb.
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