The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), yesterday, backed the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC).
The stakeholders spoke during a public hearing on the bill for the establishment of the commission co-sponsored by Senators Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno) and Ovie Oma-Agege.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said the consideration and passage of the bill was long overdue given the strong advocacy by the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee and the Justice Lemu-led Post-Election Violence Panel report.
Yakubu said the failure to systematically and consistently enforce sanctions had encouraged impunity and the violence that often characterised electoral contest in the country thereby subverting the will of the people and undermining the nation’s electoral democracy.
“The creation of the national electoral offences commission with powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute all violators of electoral laws will go a long way towards ensuring that perpetrators of electoral offences are punished.
“The bill, when passed into law, will not only ensure speedy and effective prosecution of electoral offenders, it will also enable the commission to focus and prioritise on its other extensive responsibilities as an election management body (EMB),” he said.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said the commission should be designed in such a way that it would be fully independent without room for being manipulated.
The Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, kicked against the clause in the bill that seeks to empower civilian personnel of the commission to bear firearms.
Also speaking, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General, Yusuf Tukur Buratai, said the army was in support of the commission to address the impunity in the country’s electoral processes.
Declaring open the public hearing, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said establishment of the commission would curtail political thuggery, bribery for voters and all other offences bedevilling the country’s electoral processes.
Represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Bukola described the move to establish the commission as a national duty that must be supported by all.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Kyari, described electoral offences as “self-inflicted injuries that must be healed to strengthen the country’s electoral processes.”
Source: Daily Trust