The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, believes that elections are getting better in Nigeria despite some challenges faced by the commission.
The commission has been heavily criticised by several politicians, parties, and voters for its handling of the 2019 elections, with several allegations of bias and misconduct levelled against it.
While representing Yakubu at a forum centred around eradicating electoral corruption with a focus on votebuying, INEC’s Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the commission has made several improvements that have made elections more credible in the country.
Speaking at the event, which took place in Nasarawa on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, he said these improvements have led politicians to become more desperate and device several ways to cheat the system to their own advantage.
He said, “You can see that our elections are getting better and the politicians are getting more desperate. And this accounts for some of the challenges we have.
“It is evident that the innovations and improvements in our electoral processes since 2010 have somehow put a check on ballot box snatching, ballot box stuffing, multiple voting or falsification of results, diversion of election materials, hijack of election personnel, falsification of election results and violations of the electoral laws have become considerably addressed.
“As votes start to count, as the elections are determined solely by the electoral votes, politicians now go directly to the polling units to induce the voters. And I say that the votes are beginning to count.
“Voter inducement before and after voting is manifested in two ways. First is the attempt by politicians and their agents to determine the choice of voters by offering them monetary or material rewards. Second is the attempt by prospective voters to demand such gratification in order to vote.”
Yakubu said the commission is concerned that politicians have turned polling units into market places for buying and selling of votes which he said has become too commonplace in the nation’s electoral system.
He said, “The use of inducement to gather votes is an old and recurring practice across the world. Such inducements which are often deployed to influence voters on how they vote, range from money to material goods and differs from one country to another. Items such as vehicle parts, chairs, wristwatches, textile materials, shirts, buckets, cements, rice, and cooking oil are used for inducement.
“Medications and mobile phones have become ready currencies in the transactional relationships that have developed between the voters and the political class.
“In recent times, the use of money to induce voters or to buy votes especially within the vicinity of polling units has come under intense public scrutiny.
“Agents of political parties now stand at strategic locations around our polling units to see which party a voter has voted for, either directly or through a picture of the marked ballot paper as evidence for payment.
“Here in Nigeria, 69% of respondents acknowledged receiving money or items such as rice, seasoning cubes, shirts, plastic buckets and textile materials in exchange for their votes in two governorship elections in 2014 and 2015.”
To combat votebuying, Yakubu said the commission has adopted measures that include changing and enhancing the secrecy of votes through polling unit management.
“Vote buying and selling is an illegal act. Sponsors of vote buying and selling must be brought to book and not only those that are given instructions to do so,” he said.
He reiterated his call for a national dialogue to be had on various aspects of Nigeria’s electoral process so as to nurture and sustain the nation’s democracy.