We lack manpower to prosecute electoral offenders -INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has said that insufficient manpower is one of the reasons it is unable to prosecute electoral offenders.

The commission therefore called for the establishment of the electoral offences commission which could effectively prosecute electoral cheats.

The Director, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Liaison of INEC, Oluwole Uzzi, said this on Wednesday during an interaction with editors on election timetable in Lagos.

The interaction was initiated by the United Nations Development Programme under its Democratic Governance for Development Project initiative.

Uzzi reiterated the need for an independent agency to prosecute electoral offenders.

He added that with less than 100 lawyers in INEC’s legal department, it would be impossible for the commission to handle the cases of over a million electoral offenders nationwide.

“We need Electoral Offences Commission because if INEC were to do prosecution, we would never be able to do anything else,” Uzzi said.

Uzzi, who allayed fears over the timeline for campaigns and electoral activities, said it was not a creation of INEC, but provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Publicity Committee, Dr. Chris Iyimoga, also said the commission was making efforts to curb fraud in the forthcoming 2015 polls.

He said as part of measures to check electoral frauds, the commission had resolved to allocate ballot papers based on the number of verified voters in the 120,000 polling units across the nation.

Iyimoga also said the permanent voter card would be available for use in the 2015 general elections.

He said the commission had learnt “bitter lessons” from the 2011 elections and had therefore identified credible voter cards as critical to the conduct of credible elections.

He said, “We want to assure Nigerians that have registered they will get permanent voter cards before the elections.

“Those who are just going to register will get temporary cards, which they can also use to also vote.

“We have over 60 million produced voters, awaiting distribution. So voters can use either the permanent or the temporary cards. The distribution will start soonest.”

He added that the commission would use the forthcoming elections in Osun and Ekiti states to convince Nigerians of its readiness to make the 2015 general elections free and fair.

The governorship election will hold in Ekiti State on June 21, 2014, while that of Osun State will hold on August 9, 2014.

“I want people to watch out for Osun and Ekiti to assess what we are capable of,” Iyimoga said.

He identified security, inadequate funding, absence of internal democracies in parties, apathy towards electoral process among Nigerians and prosecution of electoral offenders as some of the challenges hampering the smooth conduct of elections in Nigeria.

He admitted INEC failed in the Anambra State governorship election last year but added the the failure “was not too woeful.”

He said the commission had made representation to the National Assembly for certain parts of the Electoral Acts hampering INEC’s efficiency to be replaced or modified.

The Project Director Democratic Governance for Development Project, Muortada Deme, appealed to Nigerians to make the 2015 peaceful.

“Whatever happens in Nigeria is not an exclusive internal affair but has repercussions in the sub-region and continent,” Deme said.

The President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, Femi Adesina, commended the INEC and the UNDP for the initiative, saying voters education and mobilisation are critical to the 2015 elections.

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