During the official launch of the report on Vote buying and selling at the Ekiti Governorship Elections, YIAGA AFRICA’s WatchingTheVote called for laws to address loopholes in the electoral process especially vote buying. The report was launched by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu during the WTV election dialogue Series with the theme “Ending the Scourge of Vote Buying and Selling in Nigerian Elections” in Abuja
While presenting the report titled “Duly Elected or Duly Purchased ‘, YIAGA AFRICA Executive Director, Samson Itodo said, Nigeria’s democracy was under threat due to vote buying and corruption is a societal challenge that manifests in every facet of life in Nigeria.
According to Itodo, Vote buying menace concerns conducts by the giver and the taker of inappropriate inducement as is the case with perpetrators of vote buying. He said, the electoral laws must accommodate the various loopholes for corruption in the conduct of elections and see to the discharge of adequate punishment to offenders.’’
Itodo said this had become imperative because competence and character were no longer the parameters for assessing electoral candidates by Nigerians. He said that cash-for-vote or “see and buy’’ was emerging as the major determinant of electoral choice which could undermine electoral choices and imperil Nigeria’s democracy.
He said that vote buying also had a tendency to aggravate corruption in public offices as those who hold public mandates were made to seek corrupt means of enriching themselves toward elections.
Also speaking at the event, INEC Chairman Prof Yakubu assured that it would overcome the menace of vote buying, which it described as cancer and a threat to the electoral process.
Yakubu, however, expressed optimism about the commission’s ability to respond appropriately to the problem. He said the hydra-headed problem required the involvement of all stakeholders, including security agencies, political parties, civil society organisations, the media, and the citizens.
Yakubu stated, “We will overcome vote buying, just as we have risen to previous challenges to our electoral processes.
“We all have to come together to address this challenge. The truth is that buyers and sellers know that they are committing illegality, but nobody comes out to say, I am a vote buyer or I am a vote seller.
“Some of the infractions take place at the polling units. Some of them take place outside the polling unit on election day. Some even take place before elections through electronic cash transfer.”
The INEC chairman agreed with other speakers at the event, who attributed the emergence of vote buying to the improvement in the electoral process. He outlined some of the steps the commission had already taken to address the challenge.
According to Yakubu, “For the infractions that happen at the polling units, we are looking at the administration of our polling units such that it will be either impossible or difficult for voters to expose their ballot papers to agents of the vote buyers (for settlement thereafter). We are going to use the Osun governorship election in the next eight days to make a statement on vote buying.
“The second measure is to try to ban the use of some devices (in polling cubicles) that aid vote buying on Election Day, such as the mobile phones.”
Yakubu urged the security agencies to apprehend vote buyers and sellers and cooperate with the commission to prosecute them. He noted that even though the law empowered INEC to prosecute vote buyers, the commission lacked the capacity to arrest and investigate offenders.