ICPC proposes Electoral Offences Commission to handle vote buying and selling
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THE Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says there is a need for the Electoral Offences Commission to investigate and prosecute electoral crimes, including the corrupt practice of vote-buying.
In a Policy Brief, Eradicating Electoral Corruption: Focus on Vote Buying produced by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), an arm of the ICPC, the Commission noted that stakeholders should take deliberate steps to emphasise prevention and deterrence in sanctioning offenders and in mobolising against vote-buying.
The brief which was presented to stakeholders in Abuja on Tuesday by the Chairman of ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, also proposed parameters for defining, reporting, sanctioning and popular mobilisation against vote-buying.
Explaining vote-buying, the document said it involves the exchange of money or any other thing that is of value to the recipient.
“Vote buying is not limited to transactional exchanges for votes but also includes vote brokerage and voter trafficking,” it said.
“The context in which the vote-buying occurs is such that is highly amenable to malicious and fictitious reports.”
It stressed that emphasis should be on credible reports that are supported by evidence, adding that such reports should be promptly processed by appropriate agencies and prosecutorial steps taken against the offenders.
In particular, the brief said, “as provided by the Electoral Act, candidates should be prosecuted for vote-buying where the vote-buying is done with the knowledge and consent of the candidate of the knowledge and consent of a person who is acting under the general or special authority of the candidate.”
Erring political parties, it noted, should also be charged as co-defendants in addition to prosecuting candidates.
On the role of the public in vote-buying, the Commission explained that the public needs to be properly mobilised against vote-buying.
“In educating and re-orientating the populace, it should be noted that there is a growing disposition and perception that it is acceptable for voters to collect money from vote buyers as long as voters do not go along with the demands or intentions of the buyers,” it explained.
“This belief is rooted in the cynicism that once public officials are voted into office, the legitimate expectations of the electorate will not be met by the public officials elected to serve. Hence, the cynical belief that is better to sell votes and thereby have parts of their expectations met in advance.”
The ICPC said citizens should be made aware that the disposition that it is justifiable or excusable to collect money from vote buyers fuels electoral corruption which in turn energises grand corruption which ultimately leads to poverty in all areas of public and private life.
Presenting the Policy Brief, the ICPC Chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye said it was important to note that vote-buying was not the only practice that bedeviled the electoral process.
“So the present focus on vote-buying does not exclude future work on dismantling other forms of corruption in the electoral process.
“The ICPC remains committed to working with all bona fide stakeholders in combating corruption in the country,” Owasanoye said.