The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has kicked against the bill seeking the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission to handle electoral offences.
The anti-graft Commission conveyed its position Tuesday, 23 August, 2022 through its Assistant Commander, Deborah Adamu- Eteh, who represented the Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
TheFact Daily gathers that the House of Representatives is considering the National Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill that is geared towards checking violence, intimidation and vote-buying, as well as providing the framework for investigation and prosecution of electoral offences.
Such institutions as the House of Representatives, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO, have expressed their support for the setting up of the electoral offences commission.
Bawa, while noting that the EFCC and other agencies are already handling most of the offences highlighted in the bill, posited
that rather than setting up another agency to handle electoral offences, the existing ones should be strengthened to prosecute offenders.
“A holistic review of the contents of the proposed bill shows that the offences contained therein in Part IV (Sections13-32) largely constitute offences that have already been criminalised by extant laws such as the Electoral Act 2022 (Sections 114-129), the Penal and Criminal Codes, the ICPC Act 2000, the Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment)Act 2004.
“It is opposite to state that these offences are offences that the police, Ministryof Justice, EFCC, ICPC, and even the Independent National Electoral Commission (in Section 145 of the Electoral Act 2022) are empowered under our extant laws to investigate and prosecute”, Bawa said.
The EFCC boss said that considering the nature of the electioneering process which is seasonal and conducted every four years, it was unnecessary to create an agency solely for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting electoral offences.
However, INEC Chairman Yakubu Mahmood, who backed the setting up of the Commission, called for the unbundling of the electoral body because of its “incapacity to arrest offenders or conduct an investigation that leads to the successful prosecution of especially the high-profile offenders”, and the assigning of some of its extensive responsibilities to other agencies as recommended by the Uwais and Nnamani committees.
Mahmood maintained that no reform in the electoral process can be complete without effective sanctions on violators of our laws. He cited the 2015 general elections in which only 60 convictions have been secured so far, out of the 125 cases of electoral offences that were filed in the various courts.
“For those who argue that the solution does not lie in expanding the federal bureaucracy by creating a new commission, we believe that the National Electoral Offences Commission should be seen as an exception.
“While there are other security agencies that deal with economic and financial crimes, I have yet to hear anyone who, in good conscience, thinks that it is unnecessary to have established anti-corruption agencies”, Mahmood stated.
IPAC Chairman Yabagi Sani said, “the bill is the right decision in the right direction”, while a representative of the FCDO, Campbell Mcdade, backed the bill, saying it will boost free, fair and credible elections.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who bemoaned electoral offences, promised that the National Assembly would do everything to ensure the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission to takecare of electoral violence, fraud and abuse of process.
The bill proposes a 20-year jail term or a fine of N40 million for those involved in ballot box snatching, vote-buying, destruction of electoral materials and other electoral offences.