2023: INEC, EFCC, Police, Others Move To Block Money Laundering, Thuggery

Chairman, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
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By Akombo Aondona, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as well as other security agencies on Monday vowed to stamp out money laundering, thuggery and other vices out of the country electoral process to ensure a peaceful, secure and credible election 2023 general elections.

This resolve was stated at a one-day stakeholders’ summit on addressing the influence of money in the 2023 general election held at NAF Conference Center, Abuja.

Addressing the summit, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said dealing with the diabolical use of money in the electoral process, especially the buying of permanent voters cards PVCs by some corrupt politicians, was a welcome development not only to the elections stakeholders but all Nigerians who want to see that leaders emerged in a free and fair credible election in 2023.

Prof. Mahmood said: “We are gathered here today to address a matter of serious concern to most Nigerians. The negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of our democracy. It destroys the very basis of democratic elections which is that citizens should freely choose those who exercise power on their behalf. It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections. Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering.

 “Above all, the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a “win-at-all-costs” mentality among contestants who would have invested a fortune in election. Surely, election is not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion. But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money.”

The INEC chairman continued: “Understandably, many Nigerians have demanded to know from INEC what the Commission is doing about the deleterious influence of money in elections, particularly the diabolical purchase of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) from voters ahead of the election and vote buying at Polling Units on Election Day. Over the years, we introduced a number of measures, including the slight reconfiguration of our Polling Units to bring the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles to discourage the exposure of the marked ballot papers by voters to vote buyers. We also banned the use of smart phones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success.

“Today, we commence yet another initiative to sanitise and strengthen our electoral process. We believe that in dealing with the corruption of our elections by money, the Commission cannot do it alone. To succeed, we must mobilise every relevant national institution to support our effort. We must rely on the professional and other capacities of cognate agencies in our determination to improve electoral administration in Nigeria. That is why we appreciate the collaboration with the Police, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the regulatory bodies such as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON). We welcome the assurances of full collaboration, commitment and partnership of these agencies to credible elections based on their statutory responsibilities. We look forward to their initial ideas about how to deal with the problem when they address us shortly.

“The Commission is aware that legal provisions and the actions of the agencies are critical but will not be enough to completely root out the deep-seated cancer of corrupt money in our elections. The concerted actions of citizens are crucial. Citizens must reject inducements to sway their votes through vote buying. They must also engage effectively in stopping the negative use of money in our electoral process generally by reporting cases to INEC and other agencies. In addition, civil society organisations should make this a major plank of both their pre-election and election observation activities. Financial institutions, religious organisations, traditional institutions, the media, civic bodies and, above all, citizens must also join in this fight.”

 Prof. Yakubu added: “Once again, I would like to appreciate the Nigeria Police and other security and safety agencies, the ICPC, the EFCC, the NBC and ARCON for their support and partnership. I would similarly like to appreciate the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), political parties, civil society organisations, trade unions, professional bodies, financial institutions and all our invited guests for honouring our invitation and for standing by INEC in our shared commitment to credible elections in Nigeria. We also extend our appreciation to the MacArthur Foundation and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) for their partnership and support.

“Tomorrow, Tuesday 20th December 2022, the Commission will also take a major step in the preparation for the 2023 General Election with the signing of the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road and marine transport unions – the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) for land transportation and the Marine Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) for the riverine areas. Permit me to seize this opportunity to invite you all to the event which is crucial to the movement of personnel and materials and the early commencement of polls on Election Day.”

In his remarks, the Inspector General of the Police represented by AIG Bala Ciroma said when elections were influenced by money, credibility of the process was questioned. This leads to rancour and the possibility of violence after the elections. 

 The IG said: “We have seen in recent times how some politicians move about with physical cash to buy votes especially on elections day. Same approached has also been used in kind, through the purchase of items such as rice, noodles, clothes, sugar, salt etc, 

“The use of money to influence the political process has so far manifested in the current litigations within members of some political party. And in some cases, intra-party violence. 

“Some politicians often use money to sponsor restive youths who are readily available and willing to be mobilised as political thugs and to wreak mayhem on opponents and voters. We have seen this in the current political campaigns and this violence could spread to post election if the use of money is not checked. 

“We cannot rule out attempt to entice the political umpires/ security agents with money to influence the outcome of elections. 

“Extant laws and statutes have made provisions for monitoring the sources of income for political parties, expenditure and sanction for the violation. These are enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian and the electoral Act 2022 (as amended).

“We will achieve this in synergy with sister security agencies, anti-graft and intelligence agencies and other stakeholders. 

“We have also deployed intelligence officers who will get embedded in the crowd during political rallies to identify with precision persons encouraging or perpetrating violence.” 

The police chief added: “Let me state again emphatically that the use of money during the 2023 elections is unacceptable and we will do all we can within the confines of the law to bring offending persons to book.  “Therefore, all hands are on deck and all the relevant security agencies are in synergy on this. We intend to provide a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of 2023 elections.” 

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