Political Parties accuse Govs of sabotage 2023 Polls - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Monday, December 19, 2022

Political Parties accuse Govs of sabotage 2023 Polls

.....As INEC, Police, EFCC, ICPC move against money politics

Ahead of next year's general election, Nigeria's 18 registered political parties have called out state governors, accusing them of trying to sabotage the electoral process by stifling the opposition in their various states.

The development came as the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, security and anti-graft agencies decried the high cost of politics in Nigeria and the ruinous influence of money on the nation's democracy.

The outcries were a fall out of a one-day "Stakeholders' Summit on Addressing the Influence of Money in the 2023 General Election" held on Monday in Abuja.

Some of the stakeholders at the event were the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Baba Alkali; Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN;  Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa.

Others were Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission NBC; Director General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria ARCON; Director General, National Financial Intelligence Unit NFIU; Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council IPAC; INEC National Commissioners; representatives of various security and safety agencies; Chairman, Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria BON; Chairman Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria NPAN; President, Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ; representatives of Financial Institutions and leaders of Civil Society Organizations CSOs.

Speaking at the event, Prof. Yakubu noted that the negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of Nigeria's democracy as it destroys the very basis of democratic elections which is that citizens should freely choose those who exercise power on their behalf.

"It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections.

"Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering. Above all, the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a “win at all costs” mentality among contestants who would have invested a fortune in election. Surely, election is not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion. But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money.

"Understandably, many Nigerians have demanded to know from INEC what the Commission is doing about the deleterious influence of money in elections, particularly the diabolical purchase of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) from voters ahead of the election and vote buying at Polling Units on Election Day. Over the years, we introduced a number of measures, including the slight reconfiguration of our Polling Units to bring the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles to discourage the exposure of the marked ballot papers by voters to vote buyers. We also banned the use of smart phones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success.

"Today, we commence yet another initiative to sanitize and strengthen our electoral process. We believe that in dealing with the corruption of our elections by money, the Commission cannot do it alone. To succeed, we must mobilize every relevant national institution to support our efforts. We must rely on the professional and other capacities of cognate agencies in our determination to improve electoral administration in Nigeria. 

"The Commission is aware that legal provisions and the actions of the agencies are critical but will not be enough to completely root out the deep-seated cancer of corrupt money in our elections. The concerted actions of citizens are crucial. Citizens must reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying", he counselled.

Yakubu added that the Commission will Tuesday sign the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road and marine transport unions – the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) for land transportation and the Marine Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) for the riverine areas.

Sabotage by subnational entities 

Speaking on behalf of the 18 registered political parties, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council IPAC, Engr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani accused state governors of preventing the opposition from selling their manifestos to the populace.

Sani also noted that if the use of money is allowed a free reign in elections then there is no guarantee that elections will be credible, transparent, acceptable and rancour free.

He said in the countdown to the 2023 elections, IPAC and a broad spectrum of concerned and well-meaning stakeholders have observed that if urgent and drastic steps are not taken, the elections will be anything but free, fair and credible due to the negative influence of money in the electoral process.

He said; "This palpable apprehension is derived from the emerging trend in the actions and utterances of chieftains of some Candidates who clearly are more powerful than the leadership of the political parties. This is evident right from the stage of the primary elections of the political parties and at campaign rallies over reports of the plans to deploy huge illegitimate sums of money to influence the outcome of the elections.

"All factors considered, the nation will be at a crucial crossroads in its political history in 2023. The stakes are high because we have candidates who in their desperation to clinch onto power or to wrest it will go to any length disregarding sanity and the law in their bid to have their way.

"More than any other experience of elections that we have had, the 2023 elections come with a demand that all care and precaution must be taken in order to avoid rocking the boat of democracy.

"Section 91(4) of the act states that no registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate should be prevented from holding rallies, processions or meetings at any time for political purposes.

"Governors are however, stopping opposition parties from campaigning by imposing prohibitive fees for access to campaign venues, placing of campaign posters and erection of bill boards. This is happening in many states as I speak here. This undemocratic and illegal actions by elected state actors create a situation where use of money and incumbency factors are used to subvert the wishes of the electorate", he stated.

On his part, EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa noter that  vote buying has become a major obstacle to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. 

According to him, the vulnerable have continued to remain oblivious of the consequence of vote selling.

He said the EFCC has remained focused and committed to enhancing its preventive mandate by instituting measures targeted at safeguarding the system including the prevention of vote buying and influence in electoral processes though covert and overt surveillance at polling units, investigation and prosecution of politicians who receive funds to influence election outcomes.

Bawa urged stakeholders to help identify the likely sources of funds used in vote buying during elections, 

"Electioneering process comes with huge spendings and in some instances proceeds of crime are laundered through the making of billboards, tv adverts, live shows, print media and so much more. 

"Political parties are therefore enjoined to strictly adhere to the election guidelines and make full disclosures of their sources of campaign finances. it is therefore imperative to remind us all to be guided by the provisions of Section 2 of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 on limitation to make or accept cash payment", he added.

Also speaking, IGP Alkali said the police has seen in recent times how some politicians move about with physical cash to buy votes especially on election day.

"Same approach has also been used in kind, through the purchase of items such as rice, noodles, clothes, sugar, salt etc, by candidates for distribution to the electorate in order to entice them to vote against their conscience.

"The use of money to influence the political process has so far manifested in the current litigations within members of some political party. And in some cases, intra-party violence.

"Some politicians often use money to sponsor restive youths who are readily available and willing to be mobilised as political thugs and to wreak mayhem on opponents and voters. 

"We cannot rule out attempt to entice the political umpires/security agents with money to influence the outcome of elections", he stated.

Alkali added that cncerted efforts are being made by the Nigeria police as the lead agency in electoral security management to ensure that the use of money is not allowed to influence the 2023 general elections or at least ensure that this menace is brought to the barest minimum.

"We will achieve this in synergy with sister security agencies, anti-graft and intelligence agencies and other stakeholders.

"The result of this synergy has started yielding positive results as a lot of arrest have been made especially of persons buying voter registration cards as prelude to rigging the elections.

"Some political thugs have also been arrested and are being prosecuted in courts of competent jurisdiction. We will also ensure that the police X-squad, intelligence officers and investigators are moved to the field to ensure that politicians moving on election days with tonnes of physical cash for vote buying are apprehended and dealt with according to the provisions of the law.

"We have also deployed intelligence officers who will get embedded in the crowd during political rallies to identify with precision persons encouraging or perpetrating violence.

"Let me state again emphatically that the use of money during the 2023 elections is unacceptable and we will do all we can within the confines of the law to bring offending persons to book", the IGP declared.

Source: Vanguard

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