By Joy Odor
The Chairman, Independent National Electroal Commission ( INEC),: Professor Mahmood Yakubu has told Nigeria citizens that as a must, reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying.
According to him, the negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of Nigeria democracy, destroys the basis of democratic elections, renders the emergence of the right candidates extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections.
Nigerians were also informed to engage effectively in stopping the negative use of money in the electoral process generally by reporting cases to INEC and other agencies.
Professor Yakubu who stated this in his speech delivered at a one day stakeholders summit on addressing the influence of money in the 2023 general elections in Abuja on Monday, lamented that the Commission is worried that criminal money may find its way into the elections through money laundering.
He pointed out that the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a “win at all costs” mentality among contestants who would have invested a fortune in election.
“Surely, election is not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion. But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money” INEC Boss said.
According to him, civil society organisations should make this a major plank of both their pre-election and election observation activities while Financial institutions, religious organisations, traditional institutions, the media, civic bodies and, above all, citizens must also join in this fight.
“The Commission is aware that legal provisions and the actions of the agencies are critical but will not be enough to completely root out the deep-seated cancer of corrupt money in our elections” he said.
INEC Boss reminded the public that the ban on cell phones at voting cubicles is still in force.
“We have for some time now reorganised our Polling Units so that ballot boxes are placed next to the voting cubicles to forestall the practice by unscrupulous voters of showing their marked ballot papers to vote buyers” he stressed.
Professor Yakubu appealed to voters to draw the attention of their polling officials wherever they observe that these basic rules are not complied with.
He reassured Nigerians that INEC is determined to ensure a solid election management system and a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria.
INEC Chairman believed that every conscientious Nigerian wants them to do so as the Commission harbour no illusion that it is going to be easy to root out the negative influence of money on the elections, but are determined to tackle it.
“We fully realise that today’s initiative will not go down well with people who may not be committed to the growth of our electoral system and the consolidation of our democracy. We expect them to fight back.
“There will be both covert and overt pressure, countervailing actions and even threats by these vested interests. I wish to reiterate that our loyalty is to Nigeria and our allegiance is to Nigerians. We are committed to working with the collaborating agencies to see that this initiative succeeds in the 2023 General Election and beyond.
“Let me reiterate the Commission’s resolve to continue to employ both technology and administrative measures to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process.
“I assure Nigerians that preparation for the 2023 General Election is on course and we shall not be swayed from that course. Be assured that the BVAS has come to stay. Electronic transmission of results has come to stay. Public display of Polling Unit results through the IReV has come stay. With today’s initiative, the elimination of the negative use of money in our electoral process will be tackled head-on.
“Once again, I would like to appreciate the Nigeria Police and other security and safety agencies, the ICPC, the EFCC, the NBC and ARCON for their support and partnership. I would similarly like to appreciate the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), political parties, civil society organisations, trade unions, professional bodies, financial institutions and all our invited guests for honouring our invitation and for standing by INEC in our shared commitment to credible elections in Nigeria. We also extend our appreciation to the MacArthur Foundation and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) for their partnership and support” he noted.
Professor Yakubu believed that in dealing with the corruption of the elections by money, the Commission cannot do it alone but to mobilize every relevant national institution to support their effort.
” We must rely on the professional and other capacities of cognate agencies in our determination to improve electoral administration in Nigeria.
“That is why we appreciate the collaboration with the Police, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the regulatory bodies such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON).
“We welcome the assurances of full collaboration, commitment and partnership of these agencies to credible elections based on their statutory responsibilities. We look forward to their initial ideas about how to deal with the problem when they address us shortly” he ended.