The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has solicited support of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in addressing “open votes buying’’ and monitor political parties campaign funds.
INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu made the call when he received the Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, at INEC headquarters in Abuja on Thursday.
Yakubu said that INEC required the support of the anti-graft agency in the two key areas, especially as the commission approached the 2019 general elections.
He said that the country’s democracy should be determined by the citizens through their votes and not through the highest bidder.
“INEC is worried by the recent trend of open vote buying at polling stations. Some candidates have started to go to voting units with sacks of money to induce votes.
“Votes of citizens should determine who wins in an election. Our democracy must never be on sale in an open market. It is the will of the people that should determine who wins.
“Therefore, Mr Chairman, we look forward to working very closely with the EFCC to ensure that open vote buying will not affect the elections.
“We do not want 2019 general elections to be determined by the amount of money people have or who run for elections into offices.
“Votes are never for sale. It is the right of Nigerians to vote whoever they want.
“The second area is about party and campaign finance. The Electoral Act places limit as to amount parties and individuals can spend and also the amount friends of candidates can contribute in any election.
“We will like the EFCC with both the mandate and the capacity to track and trace sources of fund to work very closely with us so that we can operate within the limit of the law.
“Our democracy is never to be on sale and will never be on sale. I believe working with the EFCC, we can achieve that,’’ Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman said that if the country got the elections right, it would also get right its democracy.
“Once we get our democracy right, we are on the way to solving both the national and social problems bedeviling the nation.
“I believe if we get our democracy and elections right, it will also be vital for the EFCC, because most of the big cases we hear are related to elections and EFCC,’’ he said.
He assured Nigerians that INEC would remain an unbiased empire and would not work for any candidate or party.
Yakubu, however, decried the working conditions of INEC staff, saying the commission was one of the agencies in the country working under severe pressure and time limit.
“As a result of the tremendous pressure on the staff of the commission, last year alone we lost 85 staff many of them as a result of stress-related causes.
“As we speak, one of our staff had a stroke yesterday and he is in intensive care in the hospital.
“But we will continue to do what we have sworn to do in the interest of this country irrespective of what the pressure is.’’
Earlier, Magu said that he was in the commission to reiterate EFCC support to INEC, saying the two commissions were already collaborating in areas of investigations and prosecution of election offenders.
According to the EFCC chairman, these manifested in the 2015 general elections.
“I was not here but we are just trying to review what has been done. We are ready to collaborate and work with the INEC,” he said.
Magu urged Nigerians to join EFCC in the fight against corruption, which he described, as the `worst enemy’ of the country.
“We are all Nigerians; all of us have equal responsibility in fighting corruption. Corruption is the worst enemy of Nigeria.’’
He appealed to Nigerians to participate in the Continuous Voter Registration, secure Permanent Voter Cards and use it to fight corruption in the next elections.