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Senate moves to establish National Electoral Offenses Commission

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Senate moves to establish National Electoral Offenses Commission

The Senate Chamber

Worried by the reported cases of electoral violence that bedeviled the nation’s electoral processes, the Senate has began legislative process to establish a National Electoral Offences Commission to try offenders.

Some lawmakers, who contributed to debate on a bill to establish the connection, sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC Borno North), recalled their ordeals in the 2019 and subsequent elections in the country, described them as war situation.

They cautioned that unless concrete action is taken to save the country from the violence that are associated with the nation’s elections, the masses of this country would continue to have wrong people in government.

In his lead debate, Kyari said establishing the commission to complement role of Election Tribunal will solve the problem of electoral violence and guarantee free and fair electoral process.

He said electoral crimes help election riggers and offenders take control of government against the will of the people.

According to him, the bill has seven parts and 35 clauses.

Contributing, Senator Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru (APC Osun Central) who seconded the bill said it is part of the legislative agenda of the 9th Senate.

He noted election must be free, fair and credible devoid of interference and rigging.

Basiru urged his colleagues to read the Uwais committee report with recommendations on electoral matters in the country, noting that election rigging causes apathy adding that in other to have a proper bite.

According to him, the bill should add criminal adjudication for prosecution to be within a period of time.

Also, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), said the Uwais report did not suggest a commission but a tribunal dealing with electoral offences, adding that once those issues go to the normal court, the delay in the judgement will still go on.

He called for a clearer distinction between the commission and the tribunal which is aimed at cleaning up the system.

In his own, Senator Sam Egwu (PDP Ebonyi North), said what Nigeria have as an election is war, noting that people are being killed  during election which is unacceptable.

Former deputy senate president, Ike  Ekwerenmadu, said that the commission make sense to punish offenders.

He said as a former chairman of INEC committee, the Senate had in the last 10 years, tried to establish the commission, but has always met set back.

Explaining the role of a tribunal or commission Ekweremadu noted that Tribunal will have the powers of a magistrate court while in the case of a commission, government in power may compromise it.

The bill, he said should look at the possibility of tribunal but it must be independent and impartiality.

Also, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) said if the law did not take drastic action against electoral malpractices, Nigeria’s election will not go to the promise land.

In his own, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), said there can’t be democracy in the absence of free and fair elections.

He said the shortcoming over the years was because of people of questionable character finding their ways to elective position.

Adeyemi said military government is better than democracy, adding that there must be a special court for electoral offences.

He said: “With people of questionable character in political offices, what will be the future? We must support this bill so that people of high character must be elected and not charlatans.

Senator James Manager (PDP Delta South) who rose on a point of order and called it a “popular point”.

But the Senate President Ahmad Lawan interjected by saying “what Adeyemi raised were personnel to him and not the view of the chamber.”

Senator George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East), said the establishment of the commission would help deepens Nigeria’s democracy, arguing that military government wasn’t better than democracy.

He said the Electoral Act is not followed with people donating to politicians beyond the stipulated amount, stressing that the establishment of both the tribunal and commission would be the best thing.

He called on the leadership of the National Assembly to impress on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Bill after passage, noting that if not, 2023 general elections will be worse than 2019.

The bill scaled seconding reading and was referred to the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for further legislative work and return in four weeks.

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