Vote buying and selling during elections in Nigeria have eroded whatever gains or success recorded by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to ensure credible polls in the country.
Despite crucial reforms introduced by INEC to curb rigging and manipulation of elections through introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), governorship elections held in Anambra, Osun and Ekiti States, show that vote buying and selling has remained an ugly feature of the nation’s electoral process.
Desperate politicians have elevated vote buying and selling to an art- which makes it imperative for concerted efforts to be adopted to halt it. It is not the sole responsibility of INEC to curb the menace of vote buying and selling during elections. It is the collective responsibility of all lovers of democracy and those who believe in the sanctity of the ballot box.
The National Assembly should speedy up the passage of the National Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill. Such Commission should be operational before the 2023 general elections. And it is expected to serve as the legal framework for investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders for the overall improvement of Nigeria’s electoral process.
The Bill having passed Second Reading in the House of Representatives, is expected to guarantee the trial of election offenders, including those who sell and buy votes. The Commission will give legal teeth to INEC and the Security agencies, to prosecute those who indulge in various election related Offences, including, but not limited to those who indulge in vote buying and selling.
Such Commission is expected to considerably restore sanity in the electoral process and ensure that those who violate our electoral laws are punished.
There are evidence of the work-ability of such Commission. In Kenya, electoral offenders are tried and if culpable, are jailed within hours. With such Commission operational, voters who sell their votes or display their voter card after casting vote for anyone to see, risk jail terms.
More importantly, Nigerians and political actors in the country should change their orientation about elections in Nigeria and emulate Ireland, where elections are not even monitored by the Police or party agents at the polling booths.