The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to “urgently seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of electoral violence and other electoral offences including bribery against state governors and their deputies during the just concluded general election.”
SERAP also urged Yakubu to promptly and effectively investigate reports of electoral violence and other electoral offences committed during the general election, and to identify suspected perpetrators and their sponsors, and ensure their effective prosecution, regardless of their political status or affiliations.
In a letter dated March 25, 2023, signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said by allegedly engaging in electoral violence and other electoral offences “in so blatant a fashion”, suspected perpetrators and their sponsors had clearly acted in violation of constitutional provisions, international standards and the Electoral Act.
SERAP said Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, allowed INEC to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of electoral violence and other electoral offences such as bribery that may have been committed by any state governor and/or their deputies.
According to SERAP, INEC should promptly collaborate with the ICPC and other law enforcement agencies to identify any politician and their sponsors suspected to be responsible for electoral violence and other electoral offences during the elections.
“Identifying, arresting, investigating and prosecuting those suspected of perpetrating electoral violence and other electoral offences during the 2023 general election would act as a deterrent against electoral violence in future elections.
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“We would be grateful if immediate steps are taken to implement the recommended measures within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“Acting swiftly to address the brazen impunity and reports of electoral violence and other electoral offences during the 2023 general election would also send a strong message to politicians that INEC under your leadership would not tolerate any infringement of the electoral process,” SERAP said.
The organisation said electoral violence was a threat to fair and representative elections, inconsistent and incompatible with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, transparency and accountability for politicians to allegedly use violence to disrupt the electoral process.
According to a report by the Centre for Democracy and Development, several polling units recorded violence and/or fighting across the country.
SERAP said these violent incidents were often focused in political strongholds of opposition or perceived opponents which suggested that the use of BVAS – which limited overvoting when properly used – had resulted in a more concerted effort to stymie citizens casting their votes in opponent’s strongholds.
“Similar incidents of intimidation were reported in all geo-political zones,” it added.
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