We witnessed vote-buying in Anambra, perpetrators deserve arrest, prosecution – Situation Room

A coalition of over 70 civil society organisations, under the aegis of Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, on Friday condemned the menace of vote buying and selling, witnessed again during the Anambra State governorship election.

The Situation Room wondered why the party agents captured in a viral video offering N5,000 to some voters were not arrested. It however feared that vote trading would continue if perpetrators go unpunished.

Although the coalition described the election as violence-free, it called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to do better in future elections, starting with the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.

The NCCSR raised these issues in its final statement released in Abuja after its review of the Anambra election supported by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The resolutions were signed by its convener, Ene Obi and co-conveners, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu.

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The statement partly read, “The menace of vote-trading was once again observed in this election. In some polling units observed, there was an organised procedure for identifying voters who cast their votes for a particular political party in order to reward them afterwards.

“In other instances, party agents were soliciting for votes, and it became a matter of becoming the highest bidder to gain the votes of the electorate. This unfortunate, recurring trend appears to be deepening in Nigeria’s elections and needs to be urgently addressed with the cooperation of all stakeholders involved, including political parties, citizens and security agents.”

“However, Situation Room received the report of voters in Anambra State, who bluntly refused to sell their votes, chasing away the vote buyers. Situation Room is disappointed that the perpetrators of this electoral offence were not arrested by security operatives.

“Vote trading has continued to feature in Nigeria’s elections and will remain if perpetrators go unpunished. This brings to light the imminent need to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission to prosecute electoral offenders.”

The coalition commended the women in Anambra State for rejecting the money, adding that their action should be emulated by other citizens who sell their votes to the highest bidder without drawing the linkage between the act and the inability to demand for accountability and better governance from the leaders.”

Meanwhile, the NCCSR stressed the need for INEC to out in more efforts towards future elections, noting that the commission’s performance was below standard.

The statement added, “Generally, the Anambra State governorship election was violence free to the relief of stakeholders. Situation Room commends the commitment of individuals and groups who made efforts to mediate peace and reduce political tension in the state.

“INEC‘s administration of the election fell short of the expected standard, especially in the light of the fact that the commission had repeatedly assured of its readiness to conduct the election.”

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