Sequel to the increasing incidence of vote-trading during elections, stakeholders at a special radio town hall meeting against corruption have unanimously recommended harsher punishment for perpetrators of vote buying and vote selling in Nigeria.
The National Secretary of Social Democratic Party, Shehu Musa Gabam led the call during the meeting organized by Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, with the support of MacArthur Foundation Thursday in Abuja.
Gabam stated that vote-buying gained popularity and prominence in Nigeria lately as a result of competition between the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and their rival People Democratic Party, PDP.
He identified poverty and absence sensitization of the public on the dangers of vote-buying as some of the reasons the act is growing.
He urged electorates not to vote for politicians who want to buy their votes at all costs. “I feel there’s a lack of enforcement of laws against vote-buying, the only deterrent that can be created by the voters against someone who feels he has money to buy you is that you collect the money and don’t vote for him.”
Gabam revealed that the act of buying and selling has become more complicated in recent times, saying that traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth organizations, and elected officials and agents are all involved in the corrupt act.
Similarly, The Editor-In-Chief, Forefront Magazine, and Online, Amos Dunia said Nigeria needs an all-encompassing framework to address the issue of vote-buying, adding that the institutional structures of the nation must be allowed to work without interference.
Dunia, a former Chairman of the Abuja Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ said: “A situation where you have the Army, Police, Civil Defense taking instructions from a simple command on election day to favor a particular party or a particular candidate already compromised the system.
“So, we need a structure that will be able to remain independent and let INEC itself be independent of the executive, let the police be answerable to INEC on election day.”
Dunia decried the impact of poverty on the rising electoral corruption in Nigeria while emphasizing that with electronic voting Nigeria might be able to reduce the incidence of vote-buying and other forms of voter inducement.
On his part, the Convener, Say No Campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu averred that lack of deterrent laws and punishment are reasons why vote trading has persisted in elections organized in the country.
According to him, Nigeria must raise the stakes for punishing perpetrators of vote trading, as well as embark on thorough sensitization of the people against the menace of vote-buying.
On the consequence of vote-buying, Nwagwu said: “The deterioration of the quality of citizenship is occasioned by the merchandising of votes that we have continued to see. The direct consequence of selling votes is that citizens will not get good facilities, they will not be able to hold the government accountable, and even their own pride as citizens have been desecrated by vote-buying.”
A legal practitioner, Fidelia Usman, said perpetrators of vote-buying are not punished because most of them were backed by politicians. Usman maintained that existing extant laws were enough to tackle vote-buying if enforced.
Her words: “Vote buying is a criminal act and the extant laws make provision that culprits should be prosecuted, the existing laws, the revised Code of Conduct Act for political parties and the electoral act, they are well equipped but our problem is enforcement.
“The moment people are brought to book or made to pay and prosecuted for vote-buying, I think we will make a headway,” Usman said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Youngsmart Development Initiative, Emmanuel Edet called for the transformation of the minds of Nigerian youths against selling their votes to the highest bidder, noting that voter education should be taken to people at the grassroots.
Edet also lamented that politicians have continued to take advantage of youths in Nigeria, while the government failed to harness their full potential.
The PRIMORG’s Radio Town Hall Meeting Against Corruption series is aimed at calling the public and government attention to specific issues of corruption in Nigeria.
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