Nigeria’s ‘freest’ election witnessed vote-buying ‘worth N120m to N1bn’- Group

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The parties took part in the 1993 general elections spent between N120 million to N1 billion in vote-buying during primaries, a civil society group, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said on Tuesday.

The CDD executive director, Idayat Hassan, said this at a national dialogue organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

The event had the theme: “Eradicating electoral corruption with the focus on vote buying,” and held on Thursday in Keffi.

Ms Hassan, who gave a breakdown of vote-buying in Nigeria’s electoral history, said the menace has worsened over the years.

“Vote buying has existed since 1960 in Nigeria. The only difference is that the mode has changed. Between 1960 to 1963, vote buying was deployed. (It’s) just that they gave out food and other things that were not so expensive,” she said.

”In 1979 with the oil boom, money politics was introduced. By the third republic, money politics had become fully entrenched.”

She also explained her position on the 1993 polls, which was later annulled by the ex-military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida.

The acclaimed winner, late Moshood Abiola, died in detention while seeking to claim his mandate.

“When we talk about the 1993 elections, we tend to talk about it as being the freest and fairest. But evidence showed that between N120 million and N1 billion was spent during the primaries in that 1993 elections, raising issues on how we should define vote-buying.

“In the fourth republic, between 2003 to 2007, the value of vote-buying ranged between N1, 750 to N2, 250. In 2019, the value of vote-buying ranged between N250 to N14000,” Ms Hassan said.

The group did not, however, explain how it arrived at the statistics.

The CDD is an Abuja based think tank which focuses on strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.

It has been known for close monitoring of various elections across the country since its emergence in 1999.

1993 Polls

The 1993 elections, which were conducted on June 12, 1993, saw Mr Abiola, of the Social Democratic Party, emerged as the winner, after defeating Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention.

As a way of retaining the wide acceptance of the results 1993 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2018 directed that Nigeria’s democracy day, which was formally marked on May 29 be henceforth celebrated on June 12, in memory of Mr Abiola.

Highlighting the historical effects of vote buying in the country, Ms Hassan urged the Nigerian government to create a law that allows for the invalidation of results belonging to parties found engaging in vote-buying.

Ms Hassan also noted that a system which effectively protects the secrecy of votes would achieve a maximum effect ”in the quest to curtail vote buying”.

Earlier in his remarks, the chairman of the commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, enumerated some factors that encourage vote-buying.

These, he said include poverty, the cynicism of the electorate, illiteracy, lack of ethical orientation of stakeholders, lack of adherence to political manifestos and legislations, godfatherism and influence of money bags, among others.

Mr Owasanoye also said factors militating against the prosecution of electoral offences is the controversy surrounding the rights of prospective prosecutors to approach the court with a case involving electoral offences, without the approval of INEC.

“In the Nigerian environment, where defence counsel can raise objections anytime a prosecutor breathes, objections to the prosecution of electoral offences by any agency other than INEC is a clear and present danger. This is, notwithstanding, the fact that other law enforcement agencies may use other laws to prosecute.”

Also, the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, represented by the INEC National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, cited many cases of vote-buying witnessed in the recently concluded elections.

He commended the dialogue for paving the way for a freer and fairer election in Nigeria’s future.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had approved the National Anti-corruption Strategy which is expected to be implemented between 2017 to 2021.

The document has the sole objective of ensuring greater confidence in Nigeria’s electoral system, he explained.

He urged the commission to use dialogue as a means of addressing the anomalies in the electoral system.

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