Femi Falana (SAN), an activist-lawyer, has demanded the detention and prosecution of everyone detained during last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Falana, who is also the Chairman of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), said in a statement yesterday in Lagos that agents of the anti-graft organisations, the police, and other security agencies had confirmed the arrest of numerous suspected electoral offenders both before and during the February 25 elections.
He stated that the anti-democratic elements were accused of electoral offenses like money laundering, financial inducement of voters, snatching of BVAS machines, destroying ballots, manipulating election results, violent attacks on voters by thugs, ballot box snatching, forging election results, improper use of voter’s cards, impersonation, underage voting, dereliction of duty by electoral officers or polling agents of political parties, and accepting bribes.
Falana urged the INEC leadership to order the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to prosecute all alleged electoral criminals right away.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is authorized by Section 145 of the Electoral Act of 2022 to prosecute electoral offenders, has stated that it cannot combine the conduct of elections with the trial of electoral offenders, so this has become imperative, according to the activist-lawyer.
He said that in response to INEC’s stance, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) made known that its members were prepared to begin prosecuting election law violators in all states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Falana noted that the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel had suggested the establishment of an Electoral Offenses Commission to deal with electoral offenses committed during this year’s elections across Nigeria, but regretted that the political class had disregarded the advice.
“But due to pressure mounted on the National Assembly by progressive civil society groups, the Senate passed the Electoral Offences Commission Bill in July 2021.
“Up till now, the members of the House of Representatives have refused to pass the Bill for undisclosed reasons,” he said.
The activist-lawyer suggested that the inquiry into the electoral offenses be swiftly concluded and that the case files be sent right away to the NBA secretariat in Abuja.
He contends that some of the suspects who are currently protected from arrest or legal action by Section 308 of the Constitution should face the consequences of the law at the end of their time of office because there is no statute of limitations for electoral offenses.
“Such public officers who abused their office should be treated like President Donald Trump, who is liable to be charged with the disruption of the November 2020 presidential election held in the United States,” Falana said.
He added: “It is sad to note that many voters and electoral officers, including youth corps members who resisted rigging, were brutalised on alleged orders of a governor.
“In another state, a Governor engaged a contractor to dig holes and destroy a road to discourage voters from voting for a particular candidate.”
Falana encouraged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to look into the grievances of all election violence victims in order to bring the offenders to justice.
According to the activist-lawyer, some political thugs have threatened to assault voters for casting ballots for their preferred candidates.
“Our organisation is in touch with the police and other security agencies to prevent attacks on citizens for performing their civic duties,” he said.
To prevent thugs and other criminal organizations from hijacking or interfering with the March 11 gubernatorial and state legislative elections, Falana encouraged the police and other security agencies to take appropriate precautions.