Electoral Fraud Crackdown: FG to Prosecute INEC Staff, Others

by Ohepo Ohepo


A few INEC employees and political party members who were charged with different electoral offenses during the general elections of 2023 are now being prosecuted by the Federal Government via the Nigerian Bar Association.

Because they frequently increase political tension and incite violence, electoral offenses continue to pose a serious threat to credible, free, and fair elections in Nigeria.

Following the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, 2023, Usman Baba, the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, stated that more than 700 individuals had been arrested by Nigeria Police Force members for breaking electoral regulations.

On May 2, 2023, INEC announced that it will prosecute 215 of the 774 people the NPF had detained for a variety of electoral offenses during the polls.

The NBA provided pro bono legal services, and the commission announced that it was teaming up with them to effectively prosecute the electoral criminals.

196 of the 215 case files that the commission was given involved election offenses, and the NBA and INEC are handling those matters.

Habeeb Lawal, the National Publicity Secretary of the NBA, said our correspondent on Friday that 196 suspects, including INEC officials and political party members, were facing charges related to a variety of electoral offenses, including vote-buying, possession of weapons, and other offenses during the 2023 election.

Lawal mentioned that the Federal Capital Territory, state supreme courts, and magistrate courts were all used for the prosecution.

He clarified, saying, “Volunteer members of the Nigerian Bar Association are prosecuting 196 people for a variety of charges; these cases are being handled pro gratis.

Dereliction of duty, criminal conspiracy, disorderly conduct at polling places, illegal gun ownership on election day, stealing and damaging INEC materials, electoral malpractice, illegal election material possession, voter enticement and vote-buying, malicious damage and assault, and electoral violence are among the offenses that fall under this category.

“While some of the suspects are members of political parties and others have no clear political affiliations, some of the suspects are INEC officials.

The Electoral Act gives the magistrates’ courts, state high courts, and the Federal Circuit Court jurisdiction over electoral offenses.

Since almost no state in the federation has a prosecution that is not still pending, “our members are prosecuting the offenses in these various courts throughout the nation.”

The press secretary responded, “We believe that successful prosecution of electoral offenders will deter people desperate to assume political offices,” when asked what effect the conviction will have on subsequent elections.

“We hope that this small effort will have a positive effect and sanitize our culture and electoral system.”

The INEC chairman Rotimi Oyekanmi’s chief press secretary said that the commission would not support inappropriate behavior and that offenders in the future would be held responsible for their deeds.

Oyekanmi stated: “The Independent National election Commission is reaffirming its resolve not to tolerate improper behavior by entering into the admirable cooperation with the Nigerian Bar Association to jointly prosecute election criminals.

We also want to make it very clear to potential perpetrators that they will answer for their deeds.

“Even though we’ve had some success in the past prosecuting electoral offenders, the NBA’s offer to work with us on a pro bono basis will broaden the scope and act as a warning to others.”

If electoral criminals were dealt with, according to Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, Nigeria would be free from election violence and corruption.

He declared, “Those who violate our laws should face consequences or penalties in order to maintain the integrity of the democratic process.

As members and followers become aware of the implications of committing electoral offenses, political parties will caution its members and supporters to abstain from violence in order to preserve the parties’ reputation.

“Corruption, violence during elections, and manipulation will all be absent from Nigeria.”

Victor Giwa, a lawyer, claimed that bringing electoral violators to justice will deter anomalies in elections and result in credible government.

Giwa clarified, saying that people get ready to rig elections. Since these offenders go unpunished, they set aside funds for hiring goons and buying off security services and INEC employees.

However, Nigeria would deter election anomalies and lower electoral offenses if it begins penalizing violators. It will support appropriate and reliable leadership.

“Electoral process confidence is lowered when electoral offenders go unpunished.”

In response to the development, Jackson Omenazu, Chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights and a rights activist, stated that regardless of the arrested offender’s personality, they should face severe punishment because it has become commonplace for them to steal from citizens, deny them their rights as outlined in the Electoral Act, and violate national electoral laws.

He said that throughout time, electoral violators had escaped punishment and that bringing them to justice will ensure a fair and impartial election system for the nation.

“No armed robber can rob 10,000 people at a stretch,” he declared. One of the main issues facing this nation now is that electoral offenders have gotten away with it for so long—an INEC officer with bad intents may defraud a million people at a time and get away with it.

“These actions are illegal, and to be honest, no matter who is involved, we will not have a fair election process in this nation unless those who commit these crimes face harsh penalties. To ensure that there is no possibility of them ignoring it, I advise the media to take the situation to a higher level.

Afam Osigwe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, also weighed in, saying that the most crucial thing was to demonstrate to Nigerians that there were repercussions for their conduct. He also added that in order for the election process to be honest, the apprehended electoral violators needed to be duly prosecuted.

He went on to say that deeds must match words by making sure that those who followed the electoral law and procedure received their just compensation in court, and that those found guilty should be subjected to the full force of the law.

“I don’t know who is involved, but what matters to me is that Nigeria needs to demonstrate that decisions have repercussions and that, in order to maintain the integrity of our electoral process, people who are found guilty of any kind of electoral offense should face legal action,” stated Osigwe. In order to ensure that those who attempt to support the electoral process receive their just compensation in court and that those found guilty face the full force of the law, we should align our words with our deeds.

“We have to demonstrate that we are a legal nation and that anyone who disobeys the law will face the full force of the law. That, in my opinion, is the crucial message you will be conveying if this prosecution is successful.

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