A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, has said that although the bar in terms of the conduct of elections in Nigeria has been raised by the newly signed Electoral Act, there is the need to keep on adding value to the integrity of elections in Nigeria, by punishing all electoral offenders henceforth, Page 36 learnt.
Prof. Jega said that the new Electoral Law 2022 has precipitated a remarkably improved legal framework for improving the integrity of elections in the country, moving forward.
He spoke during a Roundtable discussion on “Electoral offences in Nigeria: Ensuring documentation and effective prosecution”, organised by The Electoral Hub.atus.
His words: “If we can have an Electoral Offences Commission that can focus in terms of addressing the issues like ICPC or EFCC that have investigative and prosecutorial powers, it should be able to address that issue of impunity, which undermines electoral integrity.”
Prof. Jega added that the Roundtable came at the right time, when the new legal framework went a step further than any of the Electoral Acts in the past.
He said that historically, electoral offences in the country could be categorised into three broad categories: pre-elections offences, election day offences, and post-election day offences.
He added: “There are so many categories of these offenses, but I think what is peculiar in Nigeria compared with other countries, is what aggregates the impunity with which these offences are committed.
“Candidates are culprits, political parties are culprits, Election Observers, and even the Security Agencies are culprits, in the way in which these offenses are perpetrated.
“I think that the challenge is how to deal with these impunity, it is one thing to have a good legal framework, and on the other hand ensuring that the good legal framework is complied with.
“However, those who do not comply with it are to be appropriately sanctioned.”
Speaking further, the former INEC Chairman maintained that the 2022 Electoral Act has done a commendable job of itemising at least 62 specific offenses, specific penalties, sometimes with the option of fine, and some serious ones without the option of fine.
He nonetheless said that the challenge now is how these could be implemented.