By Harrison Arubu
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has introduced a new measure on ballot paper handling at polling units to check vote buying in the 2019 general elections.
Its Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, disclosed this at a public hearing on ‘Vote Buying and Improving Electoral Processes in Nigeria’, conducted by the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC in Abuja on Monday.
Yakubu said in the 2019 polls, the ballot papers would be handed to voters rolled up before they proceed to the polling booths to cast their votes.
He explained that the voters, in turn, must also roll up and flatten the ballot papers before leaving the polling booths to drop them in the ballot boxes.
Yakubu demonstrated the folding process with a sample of the presidential ballot paper to be used in the 2019 polls.
He said it would guard against the electorate displaying thump-printed ballot papers to agents of vote buyers at the polling units.
The INEC boss described vote buying as a systemic problem that permeates the the entire electoral process, including during political party primaries.
While noting that many countries were also grappling with the menace, he said Nigeria must find solutions to its own to serve as a reference point for other nations.
Yakubu decried the lack of arrest and prosecution of culprits despite the existence of criminal laws against vote buying and other forms of bribery and inducements, including the Electoral, EFCC and ICPC Acts.
“Since 1999, we have had several confessional statements by many partisan actors on how an electoral process is subverted and voters and electoral personnel are induced.
“They do this through food items, kitchen utensils, automobiles, electrical appliances, clothing toiletries, sandwich and so on.
“By sandwich I am not talking about food. There is a way candidates induce voters using two slices of bread; sandwiched in between the two slices is a currency note,” he said.
To address the menace of vote buying, Yakubu said, the country must break the chain of voter inducement.
According to him, the problem cannot be eradicated in secondary elections where many of its perpetrators were beneficiaries of vote buying at party primaries.
He said INEC would continue to devise innovative means to guarantee the credibility of the 2019 general elections and beyond.