INEC Says It Doesn’t Have Power To Prosecute Vote Buyers
The Independent National Electoral Commission has said it is unable to investigate and arrest politicians who allegedly took part in vote-buying during the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State.
In a letter dated August 20, INEC had written in response to a July 17 letter by an anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, which had demanded that the commission should immediately arrest and prosecute Ekiti vote buyers or be ready to face litigation.
But in the response by its acting Secretary, Okechukwu Ndech, INEC pointed out that while it had power to prosecute electoral offenders, it was not empowered to investigate election malpractices and make arrest of offenders.
It stressed that for it to be able to prosecute electoral offenders, relevant law enforcement agencies must arrest the offenders and hand over to it.
The letter read, “We refer to your letter dated 17th July, 2018, wherein you requested that the commission investigate and prosecute alleged vote-buying in the recently concluded governorship election in Ekiti State.
“The commission wishes to inform SERAP of the constraints posed by extant statutory provisions against your well-intended request.
“You may also wish to note that it is not part of the constitutional duties of the commission to arrest and investigate suspects found to have contravened provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law for the time being in force.
“Section 150(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) only confers powers on legal officers of the commission or any other legal practitioner appointed by it to undertake prosecution of offences disclosed under the Act.
“We wish to assure you that the commission will continue to partner with relevant security agencies to prosecute electoral offenders.”
In response to INEC, SERAP, in a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, vowed that it would proceed to court to seek an injunction to compel relevant agencies to arrest the perpetrators of the alleged vote-buying, so that they could be prosecuted.
“We note the response by INEC. We will be in court this Friday to seek orders to compel the commission to work with other agencies to ensure the immediate arrest, investigation and prosecution of all suspects allegedly involved in vote-buying in Ekiti State, Anambra State, Edo State and Ondo State,” SERAP said.
The anti-corruption group is contending that vote-buying amounts to undue influence and improper electoral influence.