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INEC blames security agents’ negligence for vote-buying

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Femi Makinde, Osogbo

The Independent National Electoral Commission has said vote-buying has continued to thrive in Nigerian elections because security agents deployed to polling units have failed to be diligent in carrying out their duties.

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, said this on Thursday while addressing journalists during his visit to the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Osogbo.

He said vote-buying and selling were some of the electoral offences frowned upon by the Electoral Act, saying despite that, the unlawful practice had continued because security agents had failed to make arrests and prosecute the offenders.

Agbaje said that the INEC was embarrassed by this new rigging method, stressing that they would do everything possible to stop vote-buying and selling during the September 22 governorship election in Osun State.

The REC said the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had been holding meetings with heads of various security agencies at the federal level to prompt their personnel to be alive to their responsibilities during polls.

He said he had also met with the Commissioner of Police in Osun State; Director, Department of State Services and the Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to ensure that nobody was allowed to buy and sell votes during the Osun State election.

He also said that the commission was seriously considering banning voters from taking phones inside the polling booths, saying this would prevent them from snapping the ballot papers which they could show to vote buyers as evidence for payment.

Agbaje said the issue which the commission now had was that some groups were threatening to take the INEC to court for violation of their rights to use phones inside voting cubicles.

The REC, who is a retired Director of the DSS,  said he did not see that as a violation of right, saying the same set of people would gladly comply with a directive to switch off their phones while boarding aircraft.

To make elections credible, he said, Nigerians must be ready to make sacrifices, saying the INEC would not ban voters from using phones at the polling units but would not allow them to snap their ballot papers so that they would not trade with them.

He said, “We at INEC are seriously embarrassed by the issue of vote buying and we don’t want it to happen here in Osun.  I can’t imagine that three security personnel would be at a polling unit and voters would be buying and selling votes.

“The INEC chairman has been going round to talk to DSS, the Police and the NSCDC and we have been holding a meeting with them here on the need to stop this trend. INEC is not happy about it.

“We will re-arrange our cubicles to make it difficult for voters to show their ballots to anyone. If we can’t curb vote-buying during Osun election, then it will be difficult to stop it during the 2019 general elections.

“We are going to arrest people and I will personally go round and I will be happy if we can arrest just 100 persons and ensure that they are prosecuted.”

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