Ahead of the 2023 general elections, stakeholder have called for punitive measures against defaulters of the Electoral Act.
The call was made in a joint communique at the just concluded Roundtable on Electoral Offences;organised by The Electoral Hub, an organ of the Initiative for Research , Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD) in Abuja.
As part of advocacy towards strengthening and entrenching electoral accountability in Nigeria, The Electoral Hub, a strategic think-tank committed to promoting electoral knowledge, accountability, and integrity organised a roundtable on ensuring documentation and effective prosecution of electoral offences in Nigeria for violence prevention and as a deterrence and accountability tool.
The roundtable was organised with support from the Macarthur Foundation and aimed at conceptualizing solutions to address the challenges of documenting, prosecuting, and convicting electoral offences in Nigeria.
The stakeholders said these was part of the responsibilities with regards to investigation and prosecution of electoral offences which need to be clearly assigned.
Other responsibilities, according to them is a need to devise and put preventive measures in place rather than depending solely on punitive measures (which are mainly reactive) for election crime deterrence since prevention is always better than cure.
According to them, citizens need to be well informed, well enlightened and well-oriented in terms of understanding the
negative consequences of electoral offences, hence the need for greater advocacy.
They said this also underscores the need for greater collaboration between INEC, CSOs, the media and other relevant stakeholders for the purpose of advocacy, sensitization etc as well as the need to simplify the constitution and the Electoral Act.
“In view of the enormous nature of the duties of INEC in the electoral process (which apart from the conducting elections includes regulation, prosecution, investigation, etc of election offences) it is recommended that the INEC should be unbundled for better efficiency.
“A second argument is that to avoid another layer of bureaucracy, INEC should be provided with all enablements to effectively prosecute offences.
“The need for the creation of an electoral commission (as recommended by the Uwais commission) was highlighted. If well set up in terms of functionality and capacity there would be no need for a specialized election crime tribunal.
“CSOs need to pay attention to and monitor the Electoral Commission Bill otherwise the aims and objectives for the recommendation of the commission could be jeopardised.
“It was recommended that stakeholders need to come up with strategies for building partnerships for effective investigation and prosecution of electoral offences.
They also called for the need to establish clear indicators for documenting electoral offences and reporting of same beyond documentation, stakeholders need to develop the willpower to use available data for investigating and, prosecuting electoral crimes .
They also called for CSOs need to identify pro-reform elements as an entry point into reforming the mindset of the politicians and work towards a possible synergy and further said the media has a critical role to play in informing, advocacy, sensitization and awareness creation about the Electoral Act and about the offences.