Yiaga Africa seeks creation of offences commission to prosecute electoral offenders

A not-for-profit democracy deepening group, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, Africa, has called on the National Assembly to accelerate the process of electoral reform, especially the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission to promptly prosecute electoral offenders.

The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, made the call in the group’s final report on the Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states’ governorship polls in Abuja.

Mr Itodo said the process should include fundamentally reforming the electoral management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission and attitude of politicians to elections.

He said that Yiaga Africa also called on INEC to urgently review and conduct a comprehensive audit of the Imo Syate governorship election results to inspire confidence in the process and its outcome.

He also urged the commission to thoroughly investigate allegations of malpractices and misapplication of election laws and guidelines and remediate all the flaws including prosecuting its staff members found wanting.

“Increasingly, more voters are tactically disenfranchised for conduct that is not within their control. INEC should review its policy to ensure that eligible voters across all polling units are given an equal opportunity to vote.

“This includes policy reviews that ensure that voters in polling units where elections are suspended or cancelled for electoral malpractice or logistical challenges are given an opportunity to vote,” he said.

Mr Itodo said that Yiaga Africa deployed observers to monitor the Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi governorship elections and also deployed the Process and Results Verification for Transparency methodology to observe the polls.

He noted that though Yiaga Africa observed a marked improvement in the management of election logistics across the three states, it however noticed some irregularities.

He added that the elections in Kogi and Imo states reaffirmed the lack of commitment to democratic principles and credible elections on the part of electoral stakeholders.

According to him, the zero-sum attitude to electoral politics undermines electoral integrity and citizens’ right to elect leaders.

He said, “These off-cycle elections were to test the commitment of key democratic institutions such as INEC, security agencies and the executive to restore public confidence in the electoral process.

“Yiaga Africa is concerned about the continuous decline in the quality of our elections and the penchant to lower the integrity standards of our elections irrespective of reforms introduced by the INEC and progress made in reforming our election legal framework.

“The November 11 elections were another missed opportunity to rebuild trust and confidence in the electoral process. The elections question the commitment of democratic institutions such as INEC, political parties and other state institutions to electoral integrity and credible elections.”

Mr Itodo however commended INEC for its prompt response to the report of cases of pre-filled results sheets (EC8A) in Kogi State and expressed hopes that it would fulfil its commitment to ensuring the culprits faced the full wrath of the law.

He further said that Yiaga Africa also observed a reduction in cases of election day-related violence and commended the efforts of the police and other security agencies.

He expressed hope that reports of election offences, compromise and unprofessional conduct of some cops would be duly investigated and culprits properly punished.

He noted that Yiaga Africa’s observation data suggested that elections did not hold in some designated polling units and this questioned the transparency of the process, adding that it violated the rights of the voters in the affected polling units.

According to him, as a result of missing data from the PRVT sample coupled with a high number of critical incidents recorded in Imo State, Yiaga Africa was not in a position to verify the credibility and outcome of the election as earlier promised.

Mr Itodo stated, “However INEC official results for the Kogi governorship election were consistent with Yiaga Africa’s WTV estimate as it falls within the WTV estimated range.”

The executive director said that had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA, or state collation centres, they would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges.

He added, “Kogi Result Verification based on reports from 278 of 286 (97.2%) sampled polling units, Yiaga Africa’s statistical analysis shows that the All Progressives Congress should receive between 47.0 per cent and 59.0 per cent of the vote.

“The Social Democratic Party should receive between 31 per cent and 42.4 per cent of the vote and the Peoples Democratic Party should receive between 4.8 per cent and 7.4 per cent while no other political party should receive more than 1.2 per cent of the vote.”