Weak punitive sanctions against perpetrators of vote trading and increasing poverty have been responsible for frustrations against the fight against vote buying and selling in Nigeria, key stakeholders in electoral process said on Friday.

They raised the concern during a policy dialogue with the theme, ‘Addressing vote trading in Nigeria from global comparative experiences”, organised by the Electoral Forum in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and MacArthur Foundation.

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Otive Igbuzor said that vote trading had become an unusual democratic experience, which served as a clog in the wheel of free choice and democracy in Nigeria.

According to him, the menace has become a common phenomenon in Nigeria’s political system, which, he said brought negative consequences to the country’s electoral system.

While observing that vote trading only guarantees limited, elections-bound benefits for a few and jeopardises the long-term fortunes of the majority, Omo-Agege called for stronger punitive sanctions against perpetrators and sustained information campaigns, community action and locally enforceable public commitments to collectively fight the menace.

He said, “To stem the ugly behaviour, everyone should be involved, both voters and contestants. It needs sustained information campaigns, community action and locally enforceable public commitments to collectively shun vote-buying.

“Punitive sanctions strategies are more likely to be successful than moralistic pleas. Political actors who buy votes should face stringent consequences. Political financing reform, and ensuring election security and ballot secrecy, are equally vital in addressing vote-selling. Most of this was taken care of in the new Electoral Act 2022 passed by National Assembly and assented to by the president.”

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by a National Commissioner, May Agbamuche-Mbu, said the speedy passage of the National Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill by the National Assembly would checkmate vote buying.

The INEC boss admitted that poverty was largely responsible for the menace.

He, however, expressed confidence that the tide would change soon as Nigerians were beginning to have faith in the electoral process.

Yakubu said, “We are going to intensify voter education and sensitise the people more with regards to vote buying. People have also talked about poverty. Yes, we all know it’s poverty.

“But I think also that as soon as people begin to have faith in the electoral process, they will begin to see the power that they have over the people who are running for offices. I believe that very soon, the story will change and the power will return to the people.”

The Chairman of Electoral Forum Chairman, Prof. Bayo Olukoshi, said that there have been a global consensus that seeking to eliminate the use of money in politics is almost impossible and waste of time because politicians would find ways to bring the use of money into the political equation.

According to him, democracies around the world have moved away from elimination to regulation of the use of money in politics, in a way to ensuring that the use of money does not corrupt integrity of the electoral process.

On his part, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, represented by provost of the Anti-corruption Academy, Prof. Olatunde Babawale, warned that vote buying has a tendency of frustrating and undermining the war against corruption in Nigeria.


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