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Foreign observers back Uwais’ electoral reforms on prosecution of polls offenders

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Police officers wait to escort staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with electoral items to a polling station from a Registration Area Centre after the scheduled opening time of the voting for the Presidential and General election in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 23, 2019 (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Police officers wait to escort staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with electoral items to a polling station from a Registration Area Centre after the scheduled opening time of the voting for the Presidential and General election in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 23, 2019 (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

International observers in the February 23 and March 9, 2019 elections have sought institutional justice and enforcement system for election offenses that would set the pace for action against impunity in abuse of electoral guidelines during polls.

The joint observation mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), stated this yesterday, while presenting the preliminary statement of findings on the March 9 gubernatorial and states Houses of Assembly elections.

On its part, the NDI/IRI recommended the urgent need for institutions to be set up to lighten the burden on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The international observers noted that as currently constituted, INEC is responsible for overseeing political parties and dealing with electoral offenses.

However, the recommendations that its delegations made currently and in the past and those of the Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais Reform Committee which were also reiterated in the Ken Nnamani Committee points to the need to create specific jurisdiction to prosecute electoral offenses.

Co-Lead of IRI/NDI delegation, Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, who is NDI Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa, along with John Tomaszewski, IRI Regional Director for Africa, while addressing participants during the presentation of the report.

He said without creating these institutions, there would continue to be impunity by those who commit electoral offenses, which is an incentive for people to continue to disrupt the electoral process.

Fomunyoh explained that INEC would be overburdened and unable to focus its resources and energies on administration of the electoral process.

“This is a very specific recommendation, which could be enacted into law and executed hopefully before the next general elections,” he said.

However, the role of Police officers as it affects electoral offenses was especially clarified when The Guardian asked for explanation.

Fomunyoh said: “Our delegation is aware of the fact that during the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, about 322 individuals were arrested for offenses related to their conducts on elections day.

“We hope that those individuals would be prosecuted according to the law and more importantly that the prosecutions would be done in a public setting that would allow Nigerians to get the message or for the message to be sent across the country that electoral offenses are now being taken seriously.”

He stressed the need for renewed effort to ensure the electoral law is respected and implemented.

Senior fellow at CDD, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, recalled that the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee recommended the establishment of the Electoral Offenses Commission (EOC), which would be a specialised agency that would prosecute people charged with electoral offenses.

He said the whole idea with the recommendation is to stop impunity in committing electoral offenses and getting away with them.


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