The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has implored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to ensure the upcoming 2019 elections is free and transparent.
In the same vein, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has criticized some of the security agencies and INEC over votes’ tampering and election malpractices which he claims is a serious threat to the country’s democracy.
Saraki and Dogara spoke, yesterday, in Abuja at a one-day public hearing on “Vote Buying and Improving Electoral Processes in Nigeria” organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC.
Saraki said: “We must deal with them in such a manner that does not detract from the credibility and legitimacy of the coming 2019 polls.
Dogara who called on lovers of democracy to rise against the ill developments, said: “A more worrisome dimension to vote buying is the alleged use of the officials of the electoral umpire, INEC, and officers of security agencies to induce, or intimidate and coerce voters to vote for particular candidates.
‘’Such absurdities have been widely reported in the media and confirmed by some local and international observers in respect of the recently concluded governorship elections in Osun State.
“As expected, all lovers of democracy worldwide rose to condemn these despicable incidents. Condemnation is not enough, it will amount to hypocrisy if we don’t take the bull by the horn by taking concrete steps to eliminate these evils that make mockery of our hard worn democracy.
“The essence of this public hearing, therefore, is to enable all of us interrogate these issues and proffer the way out. We must not leave here before we have proffered practical steps to be taken in order to ensure that each vote counts in our elections and our elections henceforth will qualify as democratic elections not the kind of sham elections usually organized by totalitarian regimes.’’
However, the chairman of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, refuted the allegations by levelled against the agency by Dogara and Saraki saying there has been no incidence of votes buying since he began his administration.
Nonetheless, he condemned the practice, even as he warned that it should not be allowed to define the nation’s election, as such aberration was not in any way acceptable.
“Votes buying is not acceptable, it must never be allowed to define our elections. It is illegal and morally wrong. It denies citizens quality representation and gives us bad name internationally. It does not give us a good representation,’’ he said.