Ekiti Poll: SERAP Sues INEC over Vote Buying

A lawsuit has been launched by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for “failing to prosecute those suspected of vote-buying and electoral bribery during the recently concluded Ekiti State governorship election.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1189/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to seek and obtain detailed information about reports of vote-buying by the three leading political parties in the 2022 Ekiti State governorship election.”

According to reports, there was a flagrant pattern of vote-buying and electoral bribery during the just-concluded governorship race in Ekiti, involving haggling over vote prices and payments made in partially constructed buildings.

SERAP also seeks “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to promptly and effectively prosecute those arrested, and to bring to justice anyone who sponsored, aided and abetted them.”

SERAP argues, “Vote buying threatens fair and representative elections. Vote buying amounts to undue influence and improper electoral influence.”

According to SERAP, “Wealthy candidates and their sponsors should not be allowed to profit from their crimes. Arresting and prosecuting vote buyers will end widespread impunity for vote buying ahead of the February 2023 general elections.”

SERAP is arguing that “Vote buying encourages poor governance and weakens citizens’ capacity to hold their ‘elected officials’ accountable for their actions.”

SERAP is also arguing that “Vote buying undermines the ability of INEC to discharge its responsibilities under Section 153 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule of the Constitution, and the Electoral Act 2022.”

SERAP is also arguing that “Corruption of the ballot box intrudes on the freedom of Nigerian voters to make up their minds. Vote buying and other forms of electoral corruption freeze the less wealthy candidates and parties.”

SERAP argues that “When political candidates or their sponsors decide to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such candidates and sponsors will show a disregard for democratic rules and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “Vote buying is entirely an act of election malpractice connected with vested interest since an election can be said to be free and fair when it is devoid of vote buying.”

“Ending impunity for vote-buying and electoral bribery would contribute to free and fair elections. A corruption-free electoral process is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process and the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections.”

“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. INEC has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their government in free and fair elections.”

“Preventing and combating vote buying and electoral bribery would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their government, as well as bolster the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory mandates effectively.”

“Many years of allegations of vote-buying and electoral bribery and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined public confidence in the electoral process.”

“Prosecuting allegations of vote-buying and electoral bribery would be entirely consistent with the Nigerian Constitution, the Electoral Act, and the country’s international human rights anti-corruption obligations.”

“Agents of the three dominant political parties in the state, namely All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), were reportedly involved in buying votes across the state, and voters offered as high as N10,000 in exchange for their votes.”

“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.’”

“Section 145(2) of the Electoral Act provides that, ‘a prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by legal officers of the Commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.’”

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

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

24/7/2022

Lagos, Nigeria

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *