The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has vowed to “completely root out the deep-seated cancer of corrupt money” in the nation’s elections with the full support of citizens and relevant stakeholder agencies.
Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who said this Monday, December 19, 2022, at a one-day Stakeholders’ Summit on addressing the influence of money in the 2023 general election said that one of the steps towards achieving this goal is to enforce the ban on cell phones use at voting cubicles which ban, he said, is still in force. The Summit was held at at the NAF Conference Centre, Jabi Abuja.
According to Prof. Yakubu, the Commission has reorganised “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.”
The Chairman, who acknowledged that Nigerians, ‘understandably,’ want to know what the Commission is doing “about the deleterious influence of money in elections, particularly the diabolical purchase of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) from voters ahead of the election and vote buying at Polling Units on Election Day,” assured that with the steps INEC is taking “the elimination of the negative use of money in our electoral process will be tackled head-on.”
Insisting that the negative role of money in elections, among others, “destroys the very basis of democratic elections …(and) renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult,” Prof. Yakubu stressed that “the concerted actions of citizens are crucial,” noting that citizens must reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying and report cases to INEC and other agencies.
Accepting that the task ahead is herculean, especially as some people who are against the consolidation of democracy in the country would exert “both covert and overt pressure, countervailing actions and even threats,” Yakubu vowed that INEC would not relent but would remain loyal to Nigeria and Nigerians, reassuring that the BVAS, Electronic transmission of results and public display of Polling Unit results through the IReV, which are the major technology and administrative measures put in place to strengthen the country’s electoral process, have all come stay.
Excerpts of the Chairman’s address reads:
1. I would like to first of all welcome you all to this Summit and on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appreciate you for your presence. I am aware of the competing demands on your time as we approach the end of the year. We do not take such support for granted.
2. We are gathered here today to address a matter of serious concern to most Nigerians. The negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of our democracy. It destroys the very basis of democratic elections which is that citizens should freely choose those who exercise power on their behalf. It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections. Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering. Above all, 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.
3. Understandably, many Nigerians have demanded to know from INEC what the Commission is doing about the deleterious influence of money in elections, particularly the diabolical purchase of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) from voters ahead of the election and vote buying at Polling Units on Election Day. Over the years, we introduced a number of measures, including the slight reconfiguration of our Polling Units to bring the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles to discourage the exposure of the marked ballot papers by voters to vote buyers. We also banned the use of smart phones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success.
4. Today, we commence yet another initiative to sanitise and strengthen our electoral process. We believe that in dealing with the corruption of our elections by money, the Commission cannot do it alone. To succeed, we must mobilise every relevant national institution to support our 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.
5. 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. The concerted actions of citizens are crucial. Citizens must reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying. They must also engage effectively in stopping the negative use of money in our electoral process generally by reporting cases to INEC and other agencies. In addition, civil society organisations should make this a major plank of both their pre-election and election observation activities. Financial institutions, religious organisations, traditional institutions, the media, civic bodies and, above all, citizens must also join in this fight.
6. Let me seize this opportunity to remind 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. We appeal to voters to draw the attention of our polling officials wherever they observe that these basic rules are not complied with.
7. Let me once again reassure Nigerians that we are determined to ensure a solid election management system and a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria. We believe that every conscientious Nigerian wants us to do so. As a Commission, we harbour no illusion that it is going to be easy to root out the negative influence of money on our elections, but we are determined to tackle it.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Tomorrow, Tuesday 20th December 2022, the Commission will also take a major step in the preparation for the 2023 General Election with the signing of the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road and marine transport unions – the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) for land transportation and the Marine Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) for the riverine areas. Permit me to seize this opportunity to invite you all to the event which is crucial to the movement of personnel and materials and the early commencement of polls on Election Day.
12. I thank you and God bless.