The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Wednesday raised concerns over the seeming delay in the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill by the National Assembly.
The worry, according to the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, was fuelled by the fact that the 2023 general election is less than two years from now as the first of the elections is tentatively fixed for February 18, 2023.
Yakubu, who made the disclosure during a public hearing on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, organised by the Senate Committee on INEC, said the commission “is anxious to know the legal framework to govern the conduct of the 2023 general elections.”
The INEC boss further said the timetable for the general elections which commence February 18, 2023, would come out after the Anambra state governorship election scheduled to hold 6th of November 2021.
Expressing the commission’s support for the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, Yakubu lamented that the public hearing on it was coming 13 years after the recommendation of the Uwais Committee in 2008.
“And beyond that, there had also been so many reports basically calling for action on electoral offenders,” he said.
He said the commission was saddled with a lot of responsibilities, “ranging from the registration and regulation of political parties to conduct of elections to registration of voters, delineation of constituencies, conduct of elections, bye-elections, referendum recall and the elections appear unending.
“So it is important as we consider this bill to take into consideration, those enormous responsibilities that the commission discharges.”
The INEC Chairman disclosed that since the 2015 general elections, 124 cases filed in court were being prosecuted, adding, “so far, we have only achieved 60 convictions out of 124, including the latest one that we all know about in Akwa Ibom.”
He said INEC would like to see more prosecutions of offenders not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of result of election, but most importantly, their sponsors.
“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including chieftains of political parties and candidates will be prosecuted.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South), said the bill provides for the Commission to investigate and prosecute electoral offenders on the powers of the Attorney General, adopt measures to prevent, minimise and eradicate electoral offences.
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