FG begins prosecution of INEC officials over electoral fraud

The Federal Government, FG, through the Nigerian Bar Association, has begun the prosecution of several Independent National Electoral Commission staff members and political party members accused of various electoral offenses during the 2023 general election.

Electoral offenses continue to pose a significant threat to credible, free, and fair elections in Nigeria, as they frequently exacerbate political tensions and spark violence.

Following the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, 2023, the immediate former Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, stated that the Nigeria Police Force detained over 700 criminals for breaking electoral laws.

On May 2, 2023, INEC announced that it would prosecute 215 of the 774 people apprehended by the NPF for various election violations during the polls.

The commission stated that it was working with the NBA, which provided pro bono legal services for the effective prosecution of electoral criminals.

Out of the 215 case files received by the commission, 196 constitute electoral violations and are being handled by INEC and the NBA.

The National Publicity Secretary, NBA, Habeeb Lawal, told our correspondent on Friday that 196 suspects, including INEC officials and members of political parties, were being prosecuted for various electoral offences such as vote-buying, arms possession, and others committed during the 2023 poll.

Lawal noted that the prosecution was being carried out in magistrates’ courts and the high courts of the states and the Federal Capital Territory.

He explained, “A total of 196 suspects are being prosecuted for various offences by volunteering members of the Nigerian Bar Association, who are handling the cases pro bono.

“The offences range from dereliction of duty, criminal conspiracy and disorderly conduct at election venues, unlawful possession of arms on election day, snatching and destroying of INEC materials, electoral malpractices, unlawful possession of election materials, voter inducement and vote-buying, malicious damage and assault, and electoral violence.

“Some of the suspects are INEC officials, while others are political party members and people without determinable political affiliations.

“The magistrates’ courts and the high courts of the states and the FCT have jurisdiction over electoral offences by virtue of the Electoral Act.

“Therefore, the offences are being prosecuted by our members in these different courts all over the country, as there is hardly anyone state of the federation that the prosecution is not ongoing.”

When asked what impact the prosecution would have on future elections, the publicity secretary noted, “We believe that successful prosecution of electoral offenders will deter people desperate to assume political offices.

“We are hopeful that this modest effort will positively impact and sanitise our electoral system and culture.”

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated that the commission would not condone bad behaviour, adding that future offenders would be held accountable for their actions.

Oyekanmi said, “By engaging in the commendable collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association to jointly prosecute electoral offenders, the Independent National Electoral Commission is reinforcing its resolve not to condone bad behaviour.

“It is also our strong message to aspiring offenders that they will be held accountable for their actions.

“While we have achieved some measure of success in prosecuting electoral offenders in the past, the NBA’s offer to assist us pro bono will further widen the scope and serve as a deterrent to others.”

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