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Gombe councillor jailed three months for vote-buying

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•CSOs identify poverty as root of inducement
•REC advocates e-voting, as Imo APC slams INEC

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Gombe zonal office, yesterday, secured the conviction of the councillor of Bolari East, Ishiyaku Garba, who was arraigned before Justice Sa’ad Moh’d of a high court in the state on a three-count charge of bribery.Acting on intelligence report, the EFCC had arrested him at Bolari Polling Unit 077 in Gombe during the presidential and National Assembly elections, where he was sighted distributing money.

Having pleaded “guilty” to the charges, his counsel, S.A. Mustapha, pleaded for leniency.The trial judge, thereafter, convicted him on the three counts and sentenced him one month with an option of N100,000 fine for count one, one month for count two with an option of N50,000 fine, and one month for count three with an option of N20,000 fine. The prison terms are to run concurrently.

The court ordered that the N295,000 recovered from him be forfeited to the Federal Government.Meanwhile, following the recommendation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for audit of the 2019 elections for better outing in future elections, civil society groups have identified poverty and weak institutions as the root of vote-buying and other corrupt practices that characterised the recent elections.

They stressed that while in most remote communities, votes were bought openly; it was done discreetly in the cities.This was the core of elections debriefing on vote-buying and other forms of manifestations of political corruption, organised by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) in collaboration with Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Election Observation Platform (EOP) and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) in Abuja, yesterday.

The debriefing was part of the Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) drive.According to the Chairperson of TMG and founding director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode, vote-buying and other forms of inducement are gradually becoming the bane of democracy in Nigeria.

In the same vein, Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Francis Ezeonu, wants electronic voting (e-voting) to be enshrined in the electoral laws of the country.The professor of Biochemistry, during an interaction with select journalists at the commission’s headquarters in Owerri yesterday, noted that “if the system is enshrined in the legal statutes, there would be less electoral violence and malpractice.”

However, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo, Daniel Nwafor, has rated INEC’s performance in the recent general elections below average.Speaking with The Guardian at his office in Owerri, Nwafor accused the REC of compromising his legitimate duty as an election umpire.He blamed the national executive of APC led by Adams Oshiomhole for inability of the party to win a single seat in Imo assembly at the recent poll.

“I think INEC underperformed in Imo. Indeed, INEC’s performance was embarrassing. The problem is that in 2023, if we don’t check injustice, people will sit in their bedrooms and just fill out forms and announce themselves as winners. That is where our democracy is heading, if we don’t fight to bring back sanity in the electoral system,” he added.

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