Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, the director of publicity and voter education of Independent National Electoral Commission, has explained why the commission cannot punish former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, over his recent confession that he has been rigging elections.
The former senator had in a television interview confessed to being part of the manipulation of past elections in Nigeria, using officials of INEC and security operatives in favor of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was Nigeria’s ruling party until 2015.
But PDP had disowned the senator’s confession, saying the party had never directed or had any pact with Mantu to rig election on its behalf.
There have been calls on INEC to prosecute Mantu over the confession.
While reacting to the calls, Mr. Osaze-Uzzi said while the Electoral Act (Sections 149 and 150), gives INEC powers to prosecute electoral offenders, it does not give the commission the power to make arrests and investigate electoral crimes.
Mr. Osaze who said that “if any security agency sends a report to the commission regarding Mantu’s claim, then INEC will take action", pointed out that INEC is not an investigative body, as the commission can only prosecute when investigation had been concluded.
“The security agencies have to investigate first and when they have concluded their investigation, they will send the case files to us and if there is a case that has been established, we will prosecute.”
However, sources within the police said Mantu can only be investigated if INEC sent a petition to the police authorities.
A senior police officer said the Force could not take any action against the former deputy Senate president because there was no complaint before the police about Mantu’s alleged violation of the electoral laws.
“Notwithstanding the admission of an electoral crime by the former deputy Senate President, we can only investigate him if there is a formal complaint by INEC or other agencies.
“For now, we don’t regard the telecast as an admission of crime until we receive a complaint following which we would invite Mantu and interrogate him,” the senior officer had stated.
Meanwhile, a coalition of over 400 civil society organizations under the aegis of Transition Monitoring Group, has called on Nigerians to be vigilant during the 2019 general elections to avoid rigging and other forms of electoral irregularities.