The police have attributed the delay in the investigation and prosecution of alleged violators of the Electoral Act, 2022, to the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission to provide the offenders’ names.
The Force spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, said this on Saturday in response to inquiries from Sunday PUNCH on the failure of the police to prosecute prominent Nigerians who obtained multiple nomination papers for different elective offices in the 2023 polls in violation of the Electoral Act.
The Act prescribes two-year imprisonment for anyone who obtains forms for two separate constituencies or offices in the same election.
Section 115 (D) of the Act says, “A person who signs a nomination paper or result form as a candidate in more than one constituency (office) at the same election, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for two years.”
Officials who reportedly obtained expression of interest and nomination forms of their respective parties for the presidential and senatorial seats include the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Governors Ben Ayade (Cross River); Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and a former Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio.
After losing the All Progressives Congress presidential primary, Lawan, who represents Yobe North Senatorial District in the National Assembly had fought tooth and nail to displace Bashir Machina, who was declared the winner of the primary for the seat.
Following protestations, INEC subsequently affirmed Machina as the APC Yobe North Senatorial candidate in the forthcoming polls.
The Ebonyi State governor who equally lost the presidential party primary was said to have taken over the APC Ebonyi South Senatorial District ticket won by his younger brother, Austin Umahi.
Citing section 115 of the Electoral Act, Justice Fatun Riman of the Federal High Court, Abakaliki, on Friday, ruled that Umahi was not an aspirant and cannot participate in the election or pre-election matters of the APC All as regards the Ebonyi South.
The court declared Princess Ann Agom-Eze as the APC senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South District.
Like others who failed in their presidential bid, Ayade also picked the northern senatorial district ticket of the APC in his state, while Akpabio won the Akwa Ibom Northwest ticket after withdrawing from the presidential race.
Responding to the non-prosecution of the violators, Adejobi stated, “Let INEC write and inform us about it. If INEC informs the police, we’ll know what to do; this is the job of INEC. We can’t know who is submitting forms; so, let INEC inform us.”
The INEC spokesman, Festus Okoye, could not be reached for comment as calls to his phone rang out. He has yet to reply to a text message on the delay in sending the names of the offenders to the police for investigation and prosecution.
Speaking in an interview on Channels TV, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, frowned on the disregard for the law by the politicians.
“Any candidate who runs afoul of this law is liable to be jailed for two years.
Section 115 (3) even states that any attempt to obtain multiple forms is an offence. Section 115 (D) of the 2022 electoral act also stipulates that no person shall sign, obtain more than one form as a candidate for different elections,” he said.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, had in June approved the establishment of the Electoral Offences Desk at the Force Criminal Investigations Department.
The office will be supervised from the Force Headquarters in Abuja, with the Commissioner of Police, FCID, as the Desk Officer.
PDP to sue Ayade
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party in Cross River State has said it is on the verge of suing the Governor of the state, Prof Ben Ayade, for contesting the All Progressives Congress presidential primaries and also clinching the senatorial ticket of his party for the 2023 election.
The state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mike Ojisi, disclosed this to one of our correspondents on Friday in Calabar.
Asked whether PDP was considering legal action against the governor for allegedly flouting Section 15 (D) of the amended Electoral Act, Ojisi simply said, “I think we are working towards that,” but declined further comment but promised to speak more on the issue soon.
Ayade had contested presidential primaries of his party in June and lost. He settled for the Cross River North Senatorial ticket of his party hitherto won by his ex-Chief of Staff, Martins Orim.
Orim withdrew his candidacy which paved the way for Ayade to take part in the recent senatorial primary which he won unopposed.
In a related development, the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the state for the forthcoming general elections, Idris Gobir, said the party would do the needful at the appropriate time.
Gobir, while reacting to senatorial ambition of the governor, said the party would definitely challenge the candidacy of some of the PDP candidates in the state.
“I believe the party will challenge them based of the new Electoral Act which forbids anyone from buying two nomination forms.
“Those who did that especially the state governor and his deputy, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Manir Dan’Iya, respectively will definitely meet us in court to challenge the processes,” he said.
Reacting, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the party was not concerned about the threat of the opposition in the state.
Speaking to Sunday PUNCH, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said anyone who purchased more than one form and contested in more than one primary should be identified and prosecuted.
“Anybody who does that (purchasing of two forms and contests for the same election year), including party leaders that forwarded their names to the INEC have breached that position of the law. “They ought to have been charged to court without further delay so as to serve as a deterrent to other lawless political leaders in the country. That is the position of the law.