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Election violence, bribery allegations: SERAP indicts, sues INEC for non-probe of govs, deputies

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For failing to investigate allegations of electoral violence and other electoral offences including bribery against some governors and their deputies during the 2023 elections, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has slammed a suit on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

SERAP is asking the court for an order of mandamus compelling INEC to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of electoral offenses against state governors and their deputies during the 2023 elections.

Persecondnews recalls that the February 25 and March 11 national elections were marred with widespread voter suppression, voter intimidation and the destruction or theft of election materials by political party agents and thugs across the six geopolitical zones.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit filed on April 28 at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers — Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, Mr Andrew Nwankwo and Ms Blessing Ogwuche.

SERAP, among others, wants: “An order of mandamus compelling INEC to promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate reports of electoral violence and other electoral offenses committed during the elections, identify suspected perpetrators and their sponsors, and ensure their effective prosecution.

“An order of mandamus directing and compelling INEC to prosecute all arrested electoral offenders in the 2023 general election in the custody of law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies.”

It stated: “By allegedly engaging in electoral violence and other electoral offences in so blatant a fashion, suspected perpetrators and their sponsors have clearly acted in violation of constitutional provisions, international standards and the Electoral Act.

“Identifying, arresting, investigating and prosecuting any politicians and their sponsors suspected to be responsible for electoral offences during the elections would end the impunity of perpetrators. It would also advance Nigerians’ right to freely participate in their own government.

“Addressing the brazen impunity and reports of electoral violence and other electoral offences during the 2023 general elections would also send a strong message to politicians that they would be held to account for any infringement of the electoral process.

“Election violence is a threat to fair and representative elections. Election violence is inconsistent and incompatible with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, transparency and accountability for politicians to allegedly use violence to disrupt the electoral process.

“Ending impunity for electoral violence and other electoral offences would promote accountability of suspected perpetrators and their sponsors, ensure justice for victims, and ultimately advance the people’s right to vote as well as bolster voter confidence in the electoral process.

“Electoral violence and other electoral offences reportedly committed during the 2023 general elections are contrary to the express provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act and international standards.

“According to a report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), several polling units recorded violence and/or fighting across the country.”

On the emasculation of the opposition in the states in the last election, SERAP recalled: “These violent incidents were often focused in political strongholds of opposition or perceived opponents which suggest that the use of BVAS – which limits over-voting when properly used – has resulted in a more concerted effort to stymie citizens casting their votes in opponent’s strongholds.

“Similar incidents of intimidation were reported in the six geo-political zones. In several states, political thugs, apparently with the support of law enforcement officials, disrupted and sent back voters intending to vote for opposition parties.

“Party agents were reported to be directing people who to vote for while those unwilling to do as directed were denied ballot papers and forced to leave the polling units.

“According to the CDD, there are reports of vote trading in zones across the country, with both cash and goods used by all political parties in an effort to entice voters to cast their ballots at their direction.

“The CDD noted vote buying at polling units during the elections across the country.”

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