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President Buhari vows to punish electoral offenders (Read)

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Buhari vows to punish electoral offenders – President Muhammadu Buhari has called for punitive measures to be taken against perpetrators of electoral malpractices noting that it was not enough to cancel polls and order fresh ones.

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Buhari made the call on Monday, November 9, during the inauguration ceremony of the new helmsman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The inauguration had in attendance Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Senate president, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachair Lawal amongst others.

The president noted that unless electoral offenders were sanctioned, the system would not be made right. He also used the medium to call for the overhauling of the justice administrative system.

“Another area of concern is the justice administration of the electoral tribunals. It is long overdue that our justice system addresses these shortcomings. It is not just enough for an election to be cancelled and a new one ordered.

“It would be much better if all whose actions or inactions led to the cancellation of such election to be investigated and if culpable prosecuted whether they are individuals as candidates or party agents, institutions such as political party, electoral body, or public officers as electoral staff or security agents.

“Similarly, perpetrators of electoral violence and thuggery should not be spared. Unless our system stops covering up all forms of electoral malpractices we can hardly get it right. No system endures with impunity,” Buhari said.

The president also reiterated that the new administration stands for change and will see it through that the nation changes for the better.

He said: “The APC government has promised Nigerians change. In electioneering this change should be all embracing. It starts from change of attitudes, change of work ethics, change in attitude to corruption and corrupt practices, change of party political conduct-right from primaries to the emergence of candidates and finally the conduct of elections.

“In the conduct of elections we promised to respect the independence of our electoral body, INEC. We promised non-interference in its activities and above all we promised to encourage them to conduct transparently free and fair elections. I hereby pledge to keep that promise.

“Gentlemen, I hereby acknowledge and pledge to respect the independence of the commission, and this government will not interfere with its operations.”

Buhari said there is a need to make state electoral commissions across the federation more responsible to conducting free, fair and credible polls.

“Needless to add that the APC is not limited to the control of Federal Government alone. There are many states that are APC-controlled; I expect them to do no less in the way they handle their various States’ Electoral Commissions. All of us, and this includes other political parties have a responsibility to safe-guard the sanctity of democratic values; and the foundation of such values are free association, transparent electoral process and free and fair elections.

“I am aware of the Federal Government’s constitutional constraints in its engagement with the states’ electoral bodies. But the government has a social responsibility to protect the democratic rights of all.”

“I am of the view that it is totally unacceptable to hide under the cover of the technicality of law to deny the citizens’ rights. Accordingly, the Federal Government is considering a different strategy of engagement with state governments on how to make state electoral commissions much freer than many are today.

“In almost all the states, the party of the sitting government wins all the council elections – while there is nothing wrong with that if it is the true wish of the people – but majority of Nigerians more often than not think it is not, hence have little respect for the outcome of our council elections. This is responsible for questioning the integrity of such election winners throughout their tenure.”

The commander-in-chief also urged the INEC appointees to resist all forms of prejudices that will mar the credibility of elections in the country.

“For your part, you should not allow yourselves to be unduly influenced or subject yourself to the control of outside forces.  You must respect the law and we will hold you bound by the oath which you have just taken.  The nation has reposed a lot of trust and confidence in you.  You cannot afford to fail,” he said.

The new INEC officials include Professor Mahmood Yakubu (Chairman), National Commissioners: Mrs. Amina Zakari, Mr. Solomon Adedeji Soyebi, Prof. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbine, Dr. Muhammed Mustafa Lecky and Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo.

In response to the president’s charge, the new INEC chairman, said that he and members of the electoral team are not stooges to anyone, stressing that they owe it a duty to their fatherland to serve in all fairness.

As he pledged his commitment to the Electoral Act, he assured the president on behalf of his colleagues, that they would discharge their duties without fear or favour.

He said: “We pledge our commitment to discharge our responsibility without fear or favour.”

President Buhari has promised to rid the country of corrupt officials. In fulfilling that promise he has continued to make changes in key positions within his administration.

In his latest change, the president has removed Ibrahim Lamorde as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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