Akpabio, Malami may be prosecuted as INEC vows to deal with electoral offenders
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said on Tuesday that the commission is setting up a legal team to deal with cases of electoral offenders during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls.
Does this mean that offenders like the country’s attorney-general and justice minister, Abubakar Malami, will be prosecuted for his brazen violation of election regulations?
Questions have also been asked if Akwa Ibom senator, Godswill Akpabio will equally be prosecuted.
Both deliberately exposed their ballot papers to the public during the February 25 presidential election, in the same manner that President Muhammadu Buhari and Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom did.
INEC chief said the forthcoming governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections will be expectedly more demanding than the presidential poll and urged the security agencies to be on guard.
The INEC boss spoke at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in Abuja on Tuesday.
Yakubu advised political parties to caution their supporters, stressing that the March 18 governorship and state Assembly elections are a contest and not war.
He said INEC was looking forward to receiving electoral offenders’ case files as promised by the Inspector-General of Police.
Yakubu said, “The governorship and state Assembly elections this weekend involve more constituencies than the national elections held about three weeks ago. Unlike the last elections involving 470 constituencies (one presidential, 109 senatorial districts and 360 House of Representatives seats), the state elections will involve 1,021 constituencies (28 governorship and 993 state Assembly seats). There will also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect. There are also local elections involving keen contests.
“It is, therefore, important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers.
“The commission is encouraged by the directive to state commands by the Inspector-General of Police to handle all cases of electoral offences expeditiously. We look forward to receiving the case files. We will immediately set up a legal team to handle such cases in earnest.”
Nigerians have wondered if the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami and the former Akwa-Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, will be prosecuted for deliberately exposing their ballot papers to the public during the February 25 presidential election.
Akpabio and Malami, all bigwigs in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), followed the footstep of President Muhammadu Buhari who, after thump-printing his ballot paper at his polling unit in Daura, raised it to the public and was captured by the press before he dropped it into the ballot box.
Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, also did same.
Lawyers in Nigeria faulted the open display of ballot papers by the president, the Benue State governor, the AGF and Senator Akpabio.
They stated that though it was wrong for the president and the governor to openly engage in such an act, it would not affect the election results.
The president displayed the ballot paper to show that he voted for his party, the All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate, while Ortom displayed his to show that he cast his vote for the Labour Party presidential candidate.
A senior advocate, Mr Babatunde Fashanu, said the president’s act was wrong because the exercise was secret balloting.
Fashanu said, “It’s a secret balloting, you are supposed to go there, do your voting in secret and drop the paper and nobody is supposed to see who you voted for… It’s wrong. It’s illegal. What he did is uncalled for.”
“Talking about the governors, if it’s true that some of them were with their phones, definitely that’s against the INEC regulations. When we are talking of voting, everybody is equal. But even if that is done, you are not supposed to breach the rule that says don’t take phones there. You are not supposed to do it because when it comes to voting, the governors, president and everybody are equal in that area.
Another senior lawyer, Mr Paul Ananaba, noted that it was a contravention of the INEC regulation.
Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said the acts were illegal, noting that according to the Electoral Act, a section of the electoral act states that a voter cannot display the person he or she voted for.
He stated, “What Buhari and Ortom have done is wrong and illegal under the Electoral Act, a section states that you cannot display the person you voted for.”
It is understood that the president and the governor are protected from prosecution by constitutional immunity, but the attorney-general and the senator are not.
Could INEC prosecute them, even when it has failed to condemn their acts?
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