2019 polls: Falana speaks on Nigeria ending election rigging, vote-buying

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said unless an Electoral Offences Tribunal was set-up to tame the culture of impunity during elections, it will be very difficult for Nigeria to combat any form of electoral malpractice.

NL reports that Falana spoke on Tuesday at a stakeholders’ meeting on partnership for monitoring, documenting, reporting and prosecuting vote trading during the 2019 polls, which held at the YarAdua centre in Abuja

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He said that while electoral laws with stringent provisions exist in the country, the courts have repeatedly held that until a direct nexus is established between the winners of elections and those who took money from either their agents or political parties, there is nothing that could be done to convict suspected vote-buyers (political parties and candidates).

Using the case of Falae Vs Obasanjo in 1999 to buttress his point, Falana said: “the Court of Appeal held that even though there was evidence that money and bags of rice and salt were allegedly distributed by the PDP, there was no evidence to prove that the beneficiary of inducement (Obasanjo) directed the party to distribute any form of gift for the election. Since then it has always been difficult to prove that the beneficiaries of inducement directly gave instructions for inducement.

“However, by virtue of section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), any form of inducement, be it money, gifts or even promises, is a serious criminal offence. But since 1999 nobody has been prosecuted for inducement yet we witness inducements during elections.

“It has been general agreed that to stop electoral offences and collusion between electoral offenders and the government, either at the federal or state level, we should have an electoral offences tribunal that deals with electoral offenders. But, very conveniently, the PDP and the APC have not shown any interest in establishing electoral offences tribunal. That is why we have continued to witness electoral offences.”

The Senior lawyer further took a swipe at the civil society for narrowing its engagements against vote-trading to the electorates who sell their ballots for stipends.

He said; “You have left out those who spend money on campaign beyond the stipulation of the electoral act; you have left out those who are collecting money or been offered money for support; you have left out parties who give people money to decamp; You have left out money been given to the media to manipulate stories and make phoney and funny projections.

“We have left out money spent on pastors and imams to pay for candidates to win elections. In the 2015 elections, it was alleged that some ‘spiritual’ consultants collected about N5bn. We have also left out money spent on unemployed people to attend rallies and give the impression that some parties are popular.

“What of money spent on thugs to attack political opponents or disrupt rallies? I am sure you saw one in Ogun state where the President and Vice-president had to be shielded from those who were hurling stones. What of the huge money spent on bribing electoral officers and security personnel? That is why i am saying we are very partial in our discussions.”

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