Today is an important day for us as Nigerians as we begin the process of providing a more effective system for combatting the culture of impunity in our electoral process. Over the years, we have experienced elections that are bedeviled with electoral malpractices, electoral corruption and more worrisome, electoral violence. As a cardinal feature in a democracy, elections should in all sense be free, fair, credible and transparent. It should guarantee the rights of voters to choose their leaders and ensure that the process is not manipulated at the expense of the will of the people. This has not been the case, with previous elections witnessing increasing cases of electoral offences from the pre-elections phase to election day and the post-election phase.
While offenders are sometimes apprehended, prosecution of these offenders have been really poor enabling a culture of impunity. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has severally called our attention to the challenge they face in prosecuting electoral offenders. INEC as the election management body has a broad mandate already and have consistently called for the establishment of an independent body to focus on electoral offences. Beyond INEC, the recommendation for the Electoral Offences Commission dates back to the Justice Uwais Committee. It was further re-emphasized in the Lemu Committee, the 2014 National Conference and the Ken Nnamani committee.
We therefore commend the 9th Assembly for moving forward with the process and calling citizens and stakeholders to this public hearing on the National Electoral Offences Commission Bill. It is our hope that this process galvanizes citizens proposals and evolves with an Establishment Act. This is an important Bill in the electoral reform agenda, and we look forward to its success as we work to build citizens confidence in Nigeria’s electoral process.
On behalf of Yiaga Africa and our Partner, the European Union, I congratulate the National Assembly Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for listening to the people and convening this Public hearing. Yiaga Africa remains committed to supporting the electoral reform agenda to achieve a citizens-responsive legal framework for elections. Finally, I congratulate Nigerians, for once again believing in the future of our dear country. The future of our democracy is dependent on the collective effort of all Nigerians.
God bless Nigeria.