The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigeria Police Force, the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) have identified the need to tackle vote buying in order to overcome a major obstacle to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
Speaking at a one-day stakeholders’ summit on addressing “The Influence of Money in the 2023 General Election,” they also noted that vote buying also hinders accountability from the elected leaders.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, also expressed worry at the high prospect that proceeds of crime may find its way into the 2023 general election through money laundering.
Yakubu said 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 the election.
He stressed that, surely, election is not a business venture for profit, but instead an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion.
He said, “But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money.
“We are gathered here today to address a matter of serious concern to most Nigerians. The negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of our democracy. 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.”
Understandably, he said many Nigerians had demanded to know from INEC what the Commission was doing about the deleterious influence of money in elections, particularly the diabolical purchase of Permanent Voter 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 smartphones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success.”
The INEC chairman said 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 illicit money in our elections.
Yakubu stressed that the concerted actions of citizens are crucial and that they must reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying and to also engage effectively in stopping the negative use of money in the electoral process generally by reporting cases to INEC and other agencies.
He emphasised that the ban on cell phones at voting cubicles is still in force, saying INEC has for some time now reorganised polling units so that ballot boxes are placed next to the voting cubicles to forestall the practice by unscrupulous voters of showing their marked ballot papers to vote buyers.
He announced that INEC will today also take a major step in the preparation for the 2023 election with the signing of the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road and marine transport unions for the efficient movement of election materials.
On his part, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali-Baba, in his presentation said the force cannot rule out attempts to entice the political umpires and security agents with money to influence the outcome of elections.
Represented by Assistant Inspector General of Police, Federal Operations, Bala Ciroma, he said apart from electoral violence, thuggery, and snatching of ballot boxes, one key issue affecting the credibility of elections in Nigeria is the use of money to try and tilt the outcome of the elections, with consequential negative effects.
He said: “The use of money to influence the political process has so far manifested in the current litigations within members of some political parties; 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 have seen this in the current political campaigns and this violence could spread to post-election if the use of money is not checked.”
The IGP said concerted 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.
He said, “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 arrests have been made, especially of persons buying voter cards as prelude to rigging the elections.
“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.”
On his part, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, said electioneering process comes with huge spending and in, some instances, proceeds of crime are laundered through the making of billboards, television adverts, live shows, print media and so much more.
Represented by his chief of staff, Hadiza Zubairu, the EFCC chairman asked political to strictly adhere to the election guidelines and make full disclosures of their sources of campaign finances while being guided by the provisions of Section 2 of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 on: “Limitation to make or accept cash payment”.
“We are calling on all political parties to strictly adhere to the electoral guidelines, other extant laws and regulations aimed at addressing the use of funds to influence general elections and make full disclosures of their sources of campaign finances.
“It is our firm belief that curbing the use of funds to influence election outcomes is the right step in ensuring that we install leaders who will uphold probity, integrity, and accountability. It is therefore in the interest of every Nigerian desirous of a better future for us and our unborn generations to insist on free, fair, and credible elections,” he said.
“Over the decades, vote buying has become a major obstacle to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. Like the proverbial child who traded in his future in order to satisfy his immediate hunger, we have consistently witnessed the continuous exploitation of a large section of the society by politicians who succeed in cajoling the vulnerable electorate to trade in their votes for a paltry sum, temporary benefit and or unfulfilled promises. The vulnerable have continued to remain oblivious to the consequences of vote selling.
“They fail to realise that when they sell their votes, they also give up their rights to demand transparency and accountability from the elected leaders. They sell their future and that of their unborn children for an insignificant and greatly under-valued sum.
“It, therefore, goes without saying that the need to have a free, fair, and credible election cannot be over-emphasised : ‘free’ in the sense that no voter is coerced into voting against his/her wish nor is their conscience cajoled by the “greasing of hands” or the provision of some essential commodity that serves a temporary need; ‘fairness’ demands that each political.
PMB Has Assured Me Of Free, Fair Elections – Atiku
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has said that he was confident of winning the 2023 presidential election because the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari had personally assured him of a free and fair contest.
The former vice president, in an interview with the Financial Times of London, said he met with President Buhari twice on the matter.
“I’ve gotten a commitment from the president personally, because I sat down with him twice; (he said) that even if it is the only legacy he will leave, he will make sure he conducts free, fair and credible polls,” Atiku said.
My Administration Will Be Worker-friendly – Tinubu
For his part, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said his administration would make the fiscal and monetary policies work for workers and Nigerians so they can have a good life, if elected president next year.
He implored Organised Labour in Nigeria to pitch its tent with him in the 2023 presidential election, saying he has a track record of good governance.
Speaking during a town hall meeting with Organised Labour at Chida Hotel in Abuja yesterday, the former Lagos State governor also said he is the most qualified to lead Nigeria among the presidential candidates.
The town hall meeting which dissected the Tinubu-Shettima Action Plan for a Better Nigeria was well attended by Labour leaders from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) led by their presidents, Comrades Ayuba Wabba and Festus Osifo.
Tinubu said his antecedents as former Lagos State governor, during which he transformed the state and powered it to the fifth largest economy in Africa it is today, stands him out and makes him a better candidate ahead of his competitors.
Okupe’s Conviction, Attempt To Implicate Me, Says Obi
Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday described the conviction of the director-general (DG) in-charge of his campaign organisation, Chief Doyin Okupe, as a deliberate ploy to distract him from his ongoing quest to lead the country, assuring he campaigns train was on track.
He said the witch-hunting of persons in his campaign team cannot break his resolve to be Nigeria’s president.
Obi, who was addressing journalists in Uyo at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, said he remains undaunted by the conviction of Okupe, even as he affirmed that he doesn’t need his message to reposition Nigeria to be delivered on his behalf by another person.
“I am hearing about it (the conviction) just like you. I am still studying what is coming out of the courts. I believe in the rule of law. It is not going to demoralize me.
“Today, when I arrived at Akwa Ibom somebody asked me why I haven’t been using my aircraft because it has been grounded and all that and I said to him that nothing demoralises me.
“In my life I have never stayed where they dropped me, otherwise I would have been where they dropped me before. This election, if they like, let them say anything about people who are around me. I will get there.”