Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), says due diligence on the part of political parties can end the nomination of certificate forgers and ex-convicts for election.
While speaking at the stakeholders’ validation conference on INEC’s strategic plan on Tuesday, Yakubu said the commission lacked the power to prevent political parties from fielding such candidates.
He said the election of such nominees often get nullified in court, which implies that INEC would have to conduct another one.
The INEC chairman said the funds expended on rerun elections were an avoidable expense.
“If a candidate that emerges from party primaries is changed, how can INEC intervene? We can only appeal to the political parties to respect their rules. The laws say that INEC has no power to reject names submitted by the headquarters of a party,” he said.
“In some cases, some of the candidates shouldn’t have been nominated. Some parties recommend ex-convicts for election, certificate forgery, only for the court to nullify that election and for INEC to conduct fresh election. The parties should do basic due diligence.”
Yakubu said the 23 INEC officials indicted during the rerun election in Rivers state had been suspended. He said over 40 electoral offenders had been prosecuted while there were 100 outstanding case files.
He called for the establishment of an election offences tribunal, saying that it will make the prosecution of election offenders more effective.
“While we continue to make efforts, my position has consistently been that it is very, very difficult for one to prosecute himself. INEC has been saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders. Look at the challenges; we will continue to do our best, but the ground rule is, one, you are bound to make arrest of electoral offenders and INEC is not police to make arrest,” he said.
“Secondly, you have to investigate, so that you can have the evidence that can give you successful prosecution. We have no power under the law to carry out the investigation. So, how do we successfully prosecute?
“That is why I have been saying consistently that the nation needs Election Offences Tribunal to which every electoral violation is subjected, be it INEC staff or others. This is the submission of INEC so that if you violate the electoral law, you know that there will be justice, whoever you are and whatever way you will pay.”