By Naomi Sharang
Abuja – A Bill for a law to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission on Wednesday passed second reading at the Senate.
The Bill, sponsored by Sen. Abubakar Kyari (APC-Borno), is seeking adequate deterrence and sanctions for undemocratic forces in the electoral environment.
In the lead debate, Kyari said that electoral crimes led to low quality, corrupt and violent political leadership.
“Electoral crimes help election riggers and offenders take control of governments against the democratic will of the electorate.
“Electoral offences give birth to political apathy that forces the electorate to incrementally disengage from political process.”
Kyari noted that decisive deterrence through efficient criminal prosecutions was the most effective strategy for defeating electoral offenders.
“To this end, sections 149 and 150 (2) of the Electoral Act vest the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the discretion and powers to prosecute alleged electoral offenders.”
Section 149 reads: “The commission shall consider any recommendation made to it by a tribunal with respect to the prosecution by it of any person for an offence disclosed in any election petition.”
In his contribution, Sen. Shehu Sani (APC-Kaduna) said that setting up the commission was a step in decentralising INEC to help it in matters of conducting elections.
“This will check the influences of election stakeholders in pre-election and post-election matters.
“We cannot have a democracy if we don’t have a credible election,” Sani said.
On his part, Deputy Minority Leader, Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha, said that there could not be a better cure for electoral offences than having a commission.
According to him, if such responsibility is taken off INEC, it will act effectively.
Similarly, Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC-Kano) said whatever would be spent on the Bill would be worth it.
“INEC cannot be a complainant and a prosecutor,” Gaya said.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said that the Bill, when passed, would go a long way in sanitizing the electoral process.
“With such a law in place, we will have better election; electoral offenders cannot carry out offences and not be punished,” Saraki said.
He referred the Bill to Committees on INEC and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters with directive to report back in four weeks. (NAN)