Insecurity constitutes serious threat to credible polls, says Falana

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Femi Falana, human rights advocate, says the spate of attacks on the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could affect the conduct of the 2023 general election.

 

In a statement on Monday, he said security agencies need to step up efforts to subdue the attacks and charge the perpetrators to court.

 

Falana added that insecurity is already threatening the conduct of elections in over 40 LGAs and, as such, security forces need to ensure safety.

 

“In spite of the fact that the facilities are said to be well guarded, the criminal elements involved in the nefarious activities generally operate without any challenge from security forces,” the statement reads.

 “If the dangerous trend continues on a larger scale, INEC will not be in a position to conduct elections in the affected areas. It is therefore curious to note that the few suspected arsonists have not been charged before any court.

 

“The state of insecurity in Nigeria has also constituted a serious threat to the conduct of credible elections. It has been confirmed that elections cannot take place in the over 40 local government areas in different parts of the country which are firmly in the control of various armed gangs, including bandits, terrorists, known and unknown gunmen.

 

“The territories seized by the criminal gangs are in Borno, Kaduna Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, Abia and Imo States.

 

 “As the security of electoral officials and election materials cannot be guaranteed in the seized territories, the authorities of the armed forces should ensure that an enabling environment exists for the conduct of elections in all the states of the federation.

 

“Otherwise, the elections may be postponed indefinitely in territories controlled by the armed gangs with serious implications for the 2023 general elections.”

 

Falana, who cited instances of election malpractices in previous elections, said security forces should stop issuing threats and go after electoral offenders.

 

“The heads of the nation’s security agencies have been warning governors and other top officials of the political parties to desist from disrupting the democratic process. At the same time, they have been threatening to deal with armed thugs. Instead of issuing empty threats, the security forces should proceed to arrest and prosecute the suspects electoral offenders,” he said.

 

 “Contrary to the general belief among security forces, executive immunity does not cover electoral offences.

 

“In Turaki v Dalhatu 2003) 38 WRN 54 at 188, the Court of Appeal held that ‘If a governor were to be considered immune from court proceedings, that would create the position where a sitting Governor would be able to flout election laws and regulations to the detriment of other persons contesting with him.’

 

“This would make a nonsense of the election process and be against the spirit of our national Constitution which in its tenor provides for a free and fair election.

 

“However, in view of the reluctance of the ruling parties to allow the police to arrest and prosecute armed thugs and other criminal elements who disrupt elections, the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel had recommended the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission.

 

 “In July 2021, the Senate eventually passed the Electoral Offences Commission Bill. But the House of Representatives has deliberately refused to pass the Bill. Therefore, Nigerians should mount pressure on the members of the House of Representatives to pass the Bill and forward same to President Buhari for his assent.

 

“Unless the security forces are prepared to deal with the anti democratic forces that are currently disrupting the democratic process, the 2023 general elections may be sabotaged to the detriment of democracy and political stability in the country.”


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