Bill to punish perpetrators of electoral crimes in Nigeria has scaled second reading in the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill which was sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari representing Borno North Senatorial district, and Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), noted that the menace of electoral offences across the country was discrediting the nation’s democratic values.
“A bill for an Act to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission and for other matters connectedmrjereworh’, Kyari submitted.
In his lead debate, Kyari said, punishment of electoral offences which was part of statutory responsibilities of INEC had not been effective, hence, there is need to establish an administrative structure that deals with the ugly trend.
He said: “Section 149 150 of electoral Act permits the Independent National Electoral Commission to punish electoral offenders. Unfortunately, the electoral umpire had never prosecuted one percent of offemders.”
According to him, the bill would take the gauntlet, if passed into law, adding that there were voter apathy among electorates which must be discouraged at all cost.
He explained that the proposed Commission was not only in the interest of Nigerians, and the INEC itself, but was in line with global best practices.
Kyari further explained: “The INEC chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has once said, if electoral offenders were not punished, we will continue to face electoral offences.”
“Far away in Malaysia, they established their own electoral offences Commission in 1954 and in Canada and other places. Even Kenya has established it own last year.”
“The electoral offences commission if established, will work with other security agencies.”
Reacting to the debate, Senate Minority Whip, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha explained that no electoral offenders has been prosecuted in the democratic history of Nigeria.
“Mr President, if this responsibility is isolated from INEC, the electoral body will be conducting its primary responsibilities effectively. It is not late, however, but it is better to be late than never,” he said.
Senator Shehu Sani stressed that the proposed commission would check electoral malpractices. He pointed that electoral malpractices have become a culture, adding that the only way to cure the menace was institutional approach.
Senator Kabiru Gaya representing Kano South Senatorial district recalled that in 2007, there were attempts to amend the electoral Act, but this is now the right time.
Having scaled second reading, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki referred it to the Commission on INEC and Judiciary to report back in four weeks.