Posted by News Express | 31 December 2018 | 650 times
As the 2019 general elections approach, a special session of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR) has identified over-monetisation of the election process as a major challenge to a fair and seamless electoral process, this is just as it proposed strategies targeted at reducing the issue of money in the electoral process and elections.
At a parley held in partnership with the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), National Orientation Agency (NOA), Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), and the African Centre for Information and Media Literacy (AFRICMIL) with the support of Strengthening Citizens Resistance for Against prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C), the gathering said the increasing desperation during party primaries and general elections and alleged inducement judicial officers should be monitored by the Department of State Securities, EFCC and ICPC.
In attendance were Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, Chair of HEDA, Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Garba Abari, Director General, National Orientation Agency, Dr Abiola Akiode-Afolabi Chairperson Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Mr. Ebenezer Shogunle, Deputy Commissioner Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr. Eze Nwagwu Chair, Say No Campaign, Mr. Chido Onumah Executive Director, AFRICMIL, and Mr. Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA, media organisations and Civil Society Organisations.
The communique signed by Olanrewaju Suraju and Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, averred that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should establish partnership and engage with religious institutions and the media to embark on a citizen’s awareness campaign on the menace and implication of vote buying/selling.
In his statement of support, Dr Abari recognised the efforts of HEDA and its partners in engaging with other CSOs and government agencies to improve citizen’s participation in governance and political space.
He noted that the meeting couldn’t have come at a better time than the approaching elections period and essentially, everyone is a stakeholder in the election process.
He expressed worry that elections are increasingly getting transactional due to the quality of candidates emerging through the electoral process and power only available to those with the deepest pocket; this he noted is an infringement on sanctity of the electoral process.
Citing examples from the Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, he noted that the issue is far complex than just appealing to people on TV and social media while clearly it was money that decided those elections. He appealed for partnerships between CSOs to be sustained and more vigilance.
He highlighted that it is against the law to sell and buy votes without record of prosecution of anyone caught buying and selling votes.
He further cited that in the Osun and Ekiti states elections, the police reported arrests of several individuals caught buying votes.
The first speaker Mr Samson Itodo from YIAGA spoke on Mobilising Political Parties, Actors and Electorate for Vigilance Against Menace of Vote Trading and the second speaker Mr. Ebenezer Shogunle of ICPC spoke on Challenges of Dealing with Political Corruption - Perspective from ICPC. After the presentations, participants deliberated on and interrogated postulations of the speakers.
Several observations were presented and interesting debate with diverse points were raised, notably, “Vote buying is triggered from party primaries, only elevated during general elections and concluded at tribunals and courts during post-election legal tussles.
“Poverty is one of the drivers of vote selling and that must be recognised in finding the nexus between the economic state of individuals and the choices made.
“The ICPC needs to engage and make itself more relevant. Part of the Commission’s mandate is to sensitise stakeholders on integrity of electoral process and monitoring implementation process of elections.
“Without evidence of the identity of the people involved with the electoral offences, it is difficult to prosecute and this can only be achieved through collaboration between ICPC and INEC.
“ICPC has in the past relied on petition to take action in corruption cases which has not been very effective in dealing with everyday emergence of issues.
“Logistics and resources are critical factors in dealing with post-election investigation and prosecution, INEC budget proposals make no provisions for these.”
Other observations include: “Elections are seasonal and give reasonable time to plan ahead, learning from experiences of past elections.
“Judging by the prevailing trend and observed inadequate preparation to dealing with the monetisation of the election process, the 2019 general elections can be conclusively adjudged to be business usual.
“Civil Society Organisations need more creativity in order to stop politicians from continuing trend of vote buying.
“Election petitions emanating from primaries of political parties are on the increase, exerting political pressure and financial inducement on the judicial officers; and
“Though, a lot of the financial transactions are unseen, the EFCC, NFIU and banks have the mechanisms and obligations to trace these transactions.”
The gathering made some recommendations, namely, “Dealing with the issue of vote buying must be initiated from primaries of political parties and special attention of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies is required in this direction.
“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to invoke its power and mandate and ensure prosecution of electoral offenders post the 2019 elections
“Media and other Stakeholders to reframe the issues of vote buying by exposing citizens to the direct impact of vote selling/buying, and encouraging citizens to exercise their rights by educating them on the value of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC).
“Religious institutions should initiate, design and disseminate campaigns promoting behavioural change in the electorate before and during elections and shun vote-for-cash practice.
“The law enforcement agencies, INEC and Civil Society to establish an alliance to deal with and confront the threat of vote buying at primaries and general elections.
“The police and other law enforcement agencies involved with providing security during elections to deploy more of plain clothes intelligence officers than uniformed men during election;
“Stakeholders to embark on extensive research and identify all existing laws prohibiting and criminalising vote buying, selling and inducement and beneficiary of such crime; and
“Critical counter narrative on the short, medium and long term should be provided in designing solutions to the menace, considering its peculiar nature.”
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