Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission[INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega, has cried out that his commission lacks the capacity to prosecute electoral offenders.Jega made this revelation when the Senate Committee on INEC, led by its Chairman, Senator Andy Uba, came calling, on its constitutional role of oversight function.
Speaking at the occasion, Jega lamented that INEC as an institution, is too busy with other electoral matters and that its legal department is too small to handle the prosecution of electoral offenders, who are in hundreds of thousands. He said that for the voter registration alone in 2010, there were 870,000 persons awaiting to be prosecuted for various offences. He however boasted that the commission, under his watch, has prosecuted about 200 electoral offenders. But names of those Jega claimed to have prosecuted were never made public.
According to him, ”Certainly, the Electoral Act said we should prosecute electoral offenders and when we came in as a the commission, we were committed to prosecuting electoral offenders. We spoke a lot about it. And sir, we have prosecuted electoral offenders.
“In fact, I personally did a check, between 1999 and 2007, all the elections, there is not a single case of a reported prosecution of electoral offenders. As I speak with you, we have prosecuted over 200 electoral offenders. So far we have done much, more than anybody has done, in the prosecution of
“However sir, the problem is very large, the magnitude is very high. So 200 is like a drop in the ocean if you compare it with the total electoral offences that have been committed. On voter registration alone, we have evidence to prosecute 870,000 people for voter registration. We
“The evidence is there to prosecute but we don’t have the capacity as INEC. We are too busy, our legal unit is small. We are too busy, INEC dealing with pre-election matters or tribunal cases during elections or other litigations by contractors or other service providers. So we can’t successfully do prosecution. To do that will require a lot of investment in INEC”.
He added that the commission is still studying court judgments since after the conduct of the 2011
elections which is reason for its failure so far to have initiated any moves to begin prosecution of offenders during that election.
“ Luckily for us, so far, we are still studying the court judgments after the 2011 elections. Luckily for us, we have learnt from the mistakes of the past. There is not as yet, any court judgment that I am aware of as a result of the 2011 elections, where INEC was indicted or staff of INEC were indicted”, said the INEC boss. Jega also revealed that some of the INEC staff indicted by court for the conduct of the 2010 re-run governorship election in Ekiti State, have been dealt with.
“With regards to court cases sir, we inherited some court judgment which indicted some INEC staff and we started an in- house process and in some of them, we have already taken measures in-house.
“In particular, the Ekiti Court of Appeal judgment about the election in Ekiti. Specific officers were indicted, some by name, some not by name. Where it is by name it was easy for us to deal with it. Where it was not by name, we constituted an enquiry and we gave fair hearing and we took final decisions.
“Some people have been asked to go, either retired or dismissed. But we felt it is not something we should advertise. The challenge is for us to clean the system, not to be issuing press statements about these things. We are doing quite a lot in this regard”, he said.
Speaking earlier, leader of the Senate delegation, Senator Uba, assured Jega that his committee’s visit was not a witch hunt. The Senators however raised questions on various issues, ranging from the management of funds approved for INEC in 2011 and problems the commission is having in preparing for future elections.