Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, says candidates indicted for electoral offences by election petition tribunals, should not be allowed to take part in rerun elections, where the polls are nullified.
The Lagos-based human rights lawyer, who spoke at the 9th Forum of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), in Abuja on Wednesday, said allowing those indicted for electoral offences to participate in rerun polls is tantamount to rewarding criminality.
He said: “Where people are indicted for committing electoral offences, if you are going to have a rerun, it is inequitable to allow such persons contest the election; that is like rewarding criminality.
"All the governors who were indicted in elections in the past were allowed to take part in the rerun election. In our laws, you are prohibited from benefitting from fraud. We should take that to the election petition tribunals.”
Speaking at the event, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), proposed a fine of N500,000 or a three-year jail term, or both, for persons convicted of vote-buying and selling in the country.
Yakubu, represented at the event by Festus Okoye, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, said vote-buying and selling during elections in the country constitute a huge source of worry for the electoral umpire.
The INEC boss also tasked the National Assembly to accelerate work on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill. He explained that that way, there would be a separate agency saddled with the investigation and prosecution of electoral offences and offenders.
He said: “The National Assembly should isolate vote-buying and selling and properly define it. Make it a separate item in the Electoral Act and provide sanction for violation. The punishment for vote-buying should be increased and made stiffer to act as deterrent to buyers and sellers. Those who commit the offence of buying and selling should be made to pay a fine of N500,000 or be subjected to three years imprisonment, or both.
“Restriction on the use of smart phones in polling units should be put into the Electoral Act and violators should be liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or three years imprisonment or both.”