The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the House of Representatives to enact the Electoral Offenses Commission bill, as well as its Senate counterpart, to allow the country to deal with incidences of electoral violence, which have characterized several previous elections.
Chief Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary of the Commission, made the call yesterday in Abuja, noting that if the bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President, it will allow INEC to focus on organizing credible elections while the proposed National Electoral Offences Commission will be in charge of prosecuting electoral offenders.
Ojukwu noted that the Senate passed the Electoral Offenses bill on July 14, 2021, and forwarded it to the House of Representatives, and thus wondered why the law has remained waiting, despite the intrinsic value it would offer to the electoral process beginning with the 2023 general election.
He noted that, while Section 145 of the Electoral Act 2022 enabled INEC to prosecute election offenders in the 36 federation states and the Federal Capital Territory, it lacked the competence to investigate, arrest, and prosecute electoral offenders.
He emphasized that INEC’s inability to prosecute electoral violations and other forms of malfeasance before, during, and after elections in the country has been a severe barrier.
As a result, the NHRC chief joined the call for the implementation of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reforms recommendations, particularly the establishment of a National Electoral Offences Commission to deal with all forms of electoral offenses to restore public trust in the electoral process.
He went on to say that the Commission had carried out an electoral accountability project in which it made far-reaching recommendations to the federal government after painstakingly reviewing past orders and judgments arising from election petition cases to ensure citizens’ electoral rights were protected.
The Commission had recommended to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice that certain individuals be prosecuted for misconduct during the 2007-2011 general election, which the Election Petition Tribunal or the Court of Appeal had indicted and consequently ordered their prosecution.
Ojukwu expressed confidence that the current MOVE program, Mobilising Voters for Election, would achieve the following goals: 1) Increasing citizen engagement in elections. 2) Ensure that political parties and candidates provide a clear human rights direction in their manifestos, and 3) Ensure that law enforcement officers follow worldwide best practices in carrying out their tasks, such as protecting voters and their votes during elections, and so on.