The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured that it would overcome the menace of vote buying, which it described as cancer and a threat to the electoral process.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated this in Abuja at a voter enlightenment programme, WatchingTheVote Election Series II, put together by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), with the theme: “Ending the Scourge of Vote Buying and Selling in Nigerian Elections.”
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in a statement issued yesterday, quoted as saying that the challenge of vote buying was not just worrisome to the commission but also to the entire country.
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.
Yakubu assured the people of Osun and other Nigerians that only the people’s votes would continue to determine the outcome of elections in the country.
One of the board members of YIAGA, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, said vote buying had always been with the country, stressing, however, that it has gained some ascendancy in conversations now because the country’s elections are getting better.
According to him, “Politicians buy votes because the citizens are now the ones who decide the votes, unlike in the past when materials were taken to the houses of politicians and thumb printed. Now they are bringing the monies to the voting areas and it is important that we deepen on citizens’ engagement on this issue.”