Group sues INEC over failure to prosecute electoral offenders in Bayelsa, Kogi, Imo


Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “over the failure to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of grave electoral offences in the recently concluded off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1694/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to probe the allegations of electoral offences including electoral violence, in the off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.”      

SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel INEC to promptly and effectively prosecute suspected perpetrators of these grave electoral offences, and bring to justice anyone who sponsored, aided and abetted them.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel INEC to disclose spending details on the off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa States, including the specific amount spent to conduct voter and civic education and details of the activities carried out in the three states.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring accountability for the grave electoral offences in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states. Granting the reliefs sought would compel INEC to live up to its constitutional and statutory responsibilities and end the impunity of electoral offenders.”

SERAP is also arguing that, “The recurring cases of electoral bribery and violence make a mockery of Nigeria’s electoral process and participatory democracy. The electoral offences in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states show that INEC has learnt little or nothing from the well-documented problems during the 2023 general elections.”

According to SERAP, “Unless INEC is compelled to arrest and prosecute suspected electoral offenders and their sponsors in the elections Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states, perpetrators would continue to enjoy impunity for their crimes.”

SERAP is arguing that, “Many years of allegations of electoral offences and the impunity of perpetrators and their sponsors have continued to undermine public trust and confidence in the electoral process and citizens’ right to participation.”

SERAP is also arguing that, “Electoral integrity is critical to a legitimate democracy. When the integrity of that process is compromised, the legitimacy of the government and the public confidence in public institutions is seriously undermined.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, read in part: “INEC has constitutional and statutory duties to ensure accountability for electoral offences in the country, and to guarantee the effective enjoyment of the citizens’ right to vote in future elections.”  

“The right to vote is fundamental and is the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government. Nigerians should have the final say in the election of governmental officials.”

“Persistent cases of electoral offences in the country’s elections gravely violate Nigerians’ right to vote, which is central to the effective participation of every citizen.”

“Unless INEC is compelled to arrest and prosecute suspected electoral offenders and their sponsors, impunity for these crimes against the Nigerian people will continue. And citizens will continue to lose confidence in the electoral process.”

“Nigerians have the right to know how INEC is spending public funds in the discharge of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities. It is in the public interest to compel INEC to publish spending details on the elections in the three states.”

“Electoral bribery and violence and other electoral offences undermine the ability of INEC to discharge its responsibilities under Section 153 of the Nigerian Constitution and paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule of the Constitution, and the Electoral Act.”

“Allegations of electoral offences during the off-cycle governorship elections in the three states are contrary to the Nigerian Constitution, the Electoral Act and international standards.”

“The Nigerian Constitution provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.’”

“Sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act prohibit electoral bribery and undue influence before, during and after any election. Section 145(2) provides that, ‘a prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.’”

“Under section 2(a) and (b), the commission ‘shall have power to conduct voter and civic education and to promote knowledge of sound democratic election processes.’”

“The crisis confronting the country’s elections and lack of public trust and confidence in the electoral process can be addressed if impunity for electoral offences is combated through the arrest and prosecution of suspected perpetrators.”

“According to our information, the governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states witnessed cases of electoral offences including electoral violence, vote-buying, conspiracy, and undue influence.”

“There are reports of specific cases of pre-completed result sheets including in five local government areas of Kogi State – Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi and Okene.

“Suspected political thugs reportedly harassed journalists covering the governorship election in Omuma Community in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State. INEC official in the Oguta Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State also alleged that some men invaded her polling unit and carted away result sheets.”

“According to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), there were several reports of electoral violence and vote buying across the three states. For example, there were reports of incidents in PU 1, Ward 8 and PU 11, Ward 1 in Sagbama LGA in Bayelsa West.”

“In Bayelsa Central, vote trading was reported in PU 16, Ward 6 in Yenegoa LGA, PU 22, PU 30 and 31, Ward 13 in Southern Ijaw LGA with reports of voter inducements ranging from N5,000 – N22,000, and items such as wrappers and rice were also reportedly shared to buy votes.”

“In Kogi, there were reports of vote buying in PUs 004, 038 and 039 in Ward A of Lokoja LGA, where party agents were allegedly sharing out money to voters upon confirmation that they voted for their party candidates.”

“In Imo, the two major parties’ agents reportedly engaged in vote buying, sharing between N2000 to N3000. INEC officials were reportedly bribed. Electoral violence was reported in Dekini LGA, town where a thug was reportedly shot and killed by military officials while fleeing in an attempt to snatch a ballot box.”

“INEC presiding officer was also reportedly abducted in Bayelsa while on his way to the Registration Area Centre – 06 (Ossioma) in Sagbama Local Government Area.” There are reports of thugs attacking several polling units in the three states.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.


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