Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr Mahmood Yakubu, on Wednesday said that some wealthy politicians bought over some of the commission’s ad hoc workers and agents of other political parties to compromise the last general elections.
He also alleged that politicians compromised traditional and religious leaders as well as community heads to persuade voters in their domains to vote in a particular way.
Yakubu made the allegations on Wednesday in Abuja at the Forum of Anti-corruption Situation Room, a programme organised by Human and Environmental Development Agenda.
Also at the HEDA event were acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu; President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Ayuba Wabba, and other stakeholders.
INEC chairman, whose keynote address was read by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, said politicians compromised security agents and some ad hoc staff of INEC who “looked the other way while votes were being bought and sold.”
He said politicians and their agents devised various methods to compromise the electoral process.
Yakubu said, “One of the methods employed by politicians and their agents was to buy up permanent voter cards of registered voters in the political safe haven of their opponents before the day of election.
“Politicians compromised traditional, religious and community leaders by influencing them to persuade voters in their domain to vote in a particular way.
“In some instances, they persuaded willing ad hoc staff to abandon the use of smart card readers.”
INEC chairman urged the various election petitions tribunals across the country to prosecute proven cases of electoral offences, pending the establishment of a designated court for that purpose.
Meanwhile, acting IGP explained that police personnel on election duties were under a rule of engagement which prevented them from bearing firearms around voting areas.
He said the constraint made it impossible for police personnel on election duties to confront armed political thugs who attacked voters and disrupted voting at some polling centres.
The police boss, represented by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Mr Peter Ogunyanwo, said, “Measures prescribed by law to punish electoral offenders are not punitive enough to deter electoral offenders.
“For instance, Section 308 of the Constitution confers immunity on sitting governors and their deputies when they commit offences.
“In some cases, the law prescribes a fine of N40 as punishment for people caught for unlawful possession of firearms and other dangerous weapons. So where do we go from here?”
Wabba, on his part, said electoral offences, including vote-buying, thrived because of the pervasive poverty in the land.
“Most voters could not resist monetary offers for their votes by desperate politicians. Look at a situation where some state governments pay civil servants, particularly teachers as little as N7, 000 as monthly salary.
“There is no way a compromised electoral process can produce transparent and competent leaders or good governance,” Wabba added.
Chairman of the event and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, said electronic voting remained the best solution to electoral malpractices.
He said Nigeria was ripe for it.