‘Clerics who collect money to pray for candidates should also be prosecuted’
NEWS DIGEST–A human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has called for the prosecution of clerics who are paid to pray for candidates, among other violators of the Electoral Act.
Falana, who spoke at the public presentation of a partnership between some stakeholders in the elections, noted that the focus of electoral misconduct should not be placed solely on those arrested on Election Day.
The partnership, headed by the Transition Monitoring Group and the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, included the Police Service Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, among others.
According to the senior advocate, by virtue of Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), any form of inducement is a serious criminal offence.
He, however, noted that, since 1999, nobody had been prosecuted for inducing voters, “yet we witness inducement during our elections.”
Falana added, “In the case of Falae and Obasanjo, which was decided in 1999, the Court of Appeal held that even though there was evidence that money, bags of rice and salt were distributed by the PDP — that was the allegation — the court said ‘yes, but there is no evidence or prove that the beneficiary of the inducement, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, directed the party to distribute or give out any form of gifts for the election.’
“Since then, it has always been difficult to prove that the beneficiaries of inducement directly gave instructions to their parties or their agents to distribute money, rice, salt or whatever.”
He listed several offenders that were known to evade prosecution due to the clandestine nature of their offences.
Falana said, “We have left out those who are spending money on campaigns beyond be stipulation of the Electoral Act; people or parties offering money to defect; money spent on media to manipulate stories and make phony projections; pastors and mallams to pray for candidates to win elections; unemployed people attending rallies; thugs to attack political opponents and disrupt rallies; and election officers.
“If we really want to challenge the violation of the Electoral Act via monetisation of the election, we have to go beyond those who are likely to be arrested on the day of election. With the cooperation of the police and security agents, it is easy to arrest those who distribute money during elections.”