Ban on cell phones at voting cubicles still in force, INEC Chairman warns vote buyers and sellers

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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.”

*Photo: Prof Yakubu*

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By MIKAIL MUMUNI

Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu has warned that Commission would not take kindly to vote buying and selling in next year’s General election.

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The INEC boss gave the warning in Abuja on Monday at a one day stakeholders summit on addressing the influence of money in the 2023 General Election.

According to Prof Yakubu, “Let me seize this opportunity to remind the public that the ban on cell phones at voting cubicles is still in force. “

He added that “We have for some time now reorganised our Polling Units so that ballot boxes are placed next to the voting cubicles to forestall the practice by unscrupulous voters of showing their marked ballot papers to vote buyers. We appeal to voters to draw the attention of our polling officials wherever they observe that these basic rules are not complied with.”

While  reassuring Nigerians that INEC was determined to ensure a solid election management system and a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria, he said “We fully realise that today’s initiative will not go down well with people who may not be committed to the growth of our electoral system and the consolidation of our democracy. We expect them to fight back. There will be both covert and overt pressure, countervailing actions and even threats by these vested interests.”

He however reiterated that INEC was  committed to working with the security and anti-corruption agencies as well as the media to see that ” this initiative succeeds in the 2023 General Election and beyond.”

The INEC boss said “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.”

He noted that “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.”

Read Prof Yakubu’s full address below:

ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT A ONE-DAY STAKEHOLDERS’ SUMMIT ON ADDRESSING THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTION HELD AT THE NAF CONFERENCE CENTRE, JABI ABUJA, ON MONDAY 19TH DECEMBER 2022

The Inspector General of Police
The Chairman ICPC
The Chairman EFCC
Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)
Director General,  Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON)
The Director General, National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU)
Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC)
National Commissioners INEC
Representatives of Various Security and Safety Agencies
The Chairman Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON)
The Chairman Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
President Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Representatives of Financial Institutions
Leaders of CSOs
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I would like to first of all welcome you all to this Summit and on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appreciate you for your presence. I am aware of the competing demands on your time as we approach the end of the year. We do not take such support for granted.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Let me seize this opportunity to remind the public that the ban on cell phones at voting cubicles is still in force. We have for some time now reorganised our Polling Units so that ballot boxes are placed next to the voting cubicles to forestall the practice by unscrupulous voters of showing their marked ballot papers to vote buyers. We appeal to voters to draw the attention of our polling officials wherever they observe that these basic rules are not complied with.

7. Let me once again reassure Nigerians that we are determined to ensure a solid election management system and a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria. We believe that every conscientious Nigerian wants us to do so. As a Commission, we harbour no illusion that it is going to be easy to root out the negative influence of money on our elections, but we are determined to tackle it.

8. We fully realise that today’s initiative will not go down well with people who may not be committed to the growth of our electoral system and the consolidation of our democracy. We expect them to fight back. There will be both covert and overt pressure, countervailing actions and even threats by these vested interests. I wish to reiterate that our loyalty is to Nigeria and our allegiance is to Nigerians. We are committed to working with the collaborating agencies to see that this initiative succeeds in the 2023 General Election and beyond.

9. Let me reiterate the Commission’s resolve to continue to employ both technology and administrative measures to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process. I assure Nigerians that preparation for the 2023 General Election is on course and we shall not be swayed from that course. Be assured that the BVAS has come to stay. Electronic transmission of results has come to stay. Public display of Polling Unit results through the IReV has come stay. With today’s initiative, the elimination of the negative use of money in our electoral process will be tackled head-on.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. I thank you and God bless.

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