The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Tuesday accused political parties of arming youths with dangerous weapons and drugs to aid electoral violence and rigging of elections.
Prof. Jega, who spoke at a confidence-building workshop with women and youths of political parties in Abuja, said: “Youths are misused; if not abused, politicians provide arms and drugs for the youths. This should not be allowed to happen.
“Politics is not a do-or-die affair. Electoral contests should not be seen as a war situation and the bottom line is if politicians buy arms and drugs to the youths, it would not argue well for our electoral process. But, INEC will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute offenders, if they are caught.
“We monitor the primary elections of the political parties, but the candidates presented by the parties to us are not the candidates that we saw win elections during the primaries that we monitor. Some of them behave like garrison commanders. This is not good for the system and development of democracy in the country.”
Speaking on multiple voting by the electorate during elections, Jega said, “We have a credible voting system in place. A situation where politicians buy up the voter’s card and give it to people to vote will no longer happen, even where you cut off the thumb of the owners of the card. All voters with voting cards must pass through the card reading machines, so dead people will no longer vote.”
The INEC chairman said the youth leaders of political parties were expected to be within the age limit of between 18 and 35 years. He also said a group, the Alliance for Credible Alliance (ACE), had complained that some political parties allegedly appointed over aged Nigerians as youth leaders. Similarly, the former National Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Giza Umar was about 60 years old.
Commenting on campaign expenses, Jega said: “Nobody wants to see violence in the electoral process. So, we have a responsibility to do everything possible to keep on taking adequate measures to minimise violence in the polity.
“We also have to do everything possible to minimise the use of money in the electoral process. In INEC, we are doing our best as we move towards 2015, so that we can effectively monitor the expenditure by candidates of parties as we move towards 2015.
“It is clear that there are certain limits imposed in the legal framework as to how much candidates can spend during electoral campaigns. Regrettable, we have not been able to monitor this in the past and we are doing our best so that as we approach 2015, we should be able to monitor campaign expenditures of candidates. This issue also involves lack of internal democracy in political parties.”
The INEC chairman explained the inability of the commission to prosecute electoral offenders, stating that where there was evidence of such offences, the judiciary failed to dispense justice. Citing an example, Jega recalled that: “In Bayelsa State, we wrote to the Inspector General of Police and decided that the results from the area should not be accepted but what happened. Our job was not to implement. There has to be polices record. That person in question went to the court and got injunction stopping us from prosecuting him. We are accused of not prosecuting big fishes.”