The inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission to prosecute electoral offenders, can be blamed on poor resource base and faulty legal framework, an election expert, Jide Ojo has said.
According to him, the decision to vest power of investigation in the police, slows down the prosecutorial process of electoral offenders.
Ojo, who is the Executive Director, OJA Consult, made the positions known at a roundtable for Civil Society Organisation and Media on “Reducing electoral offences through effective prosecution,” recently in Abuja.
The event, put together by the Konrad- Adenauer-Stiftung, a Nigeria-based German Foundation, had in attendance members of the CSOs, the media and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Speaking at the programme, Ojo said, “A number of factors are responsible for the perceived INEC tardiness in prosecuting electoral offenders. One of such has to do with the legal framework. The Electoral Act (Sections 149 and 150), gives INEC power to prosecute electoral offenders without investing, the power to make arrest and investigate electoral crimes. Those powers are vested in the Nigeria Police.
“Successful prosecution of electoral offenders therefore largely depends on the cooperation of the police. The commission is also not well resourced to be able to perform this statutory duty. The commission does not have sufficient lawyers to take on this huge number of electoral offenders. Outsourcing legal services to private lawyers, on the other hand, does not come cheap.”
Giving an analogy, Ojo said, “a police from Sokoto deployed to Akwa Ibom can’t be available for prosecution of electoral offenders. This is because at the end of his assignment, he returns to his station. Also, corps members who serve as registration officers will surely go back to their various places at the end of their primary assignment. So, they will not be available to testify, and with all these, the cases die natural death,” he further added.
Ojo further challenged legal practitioners to, as part of their social responsibilities, offer pro bono (free) services in discharging cases bordering on electoral offences.