The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Tuesday said it was yet to receive the official report of the Police Investigative Panel on the December 10, 2016 Rivers parliamentary re-run elections.
The commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.
The panel’s report submitted to police authorities on February 7, indicted 23 Electoral Officers, for allegedly collecting monetary inducements to rig the elections.
Out of over N360 million said to have been received by the INEC personnel, the panel publicly displayed N111 million which it said it recovered from the officials who participated in the polls.
The panel had added that three senior electoral officers collected N20 million each out of the N360 million believed to have been used by the Rivers Government to influence the officials who conducted the elections.
Mr. Osaze-Uzzi also said that he was not aware that the indicted officials had been handed over to INEC for internal disciplinary measures in line with Public Service rules.
“The commission is yet to receive any report of the police investigative panel on the alleged indicted officers.
“The commission, like every other Nigerian, only read the outcome of the investigation in the news.
“What we read was that the officers were going to be handed over to the Attorney-General of the Federation for prosecution.
“I am not aware that the alleged indicted officers have been handed over to INEC either at our Rivers office or headquarters in Abuja for disciplinary actions,” he said.
The director, however, reiterated the commission’s commitment to investigating and punishing any of its staff accused or found guilty of receiving gratification or other misconducts to compromise the electoral system.
He said that any INEC official whose strong cases of misconduct had been established would be sanctioned and made as deterrent to others who would want to compromise the process.
“We have different levels of administrative punishments in accordance with the rules establishing the commission for erring officers.
“Staff could be dismissed, suspended from service or handed over to security agencies for prosecution, depending on the gravity of the offence committed.
“We have been doing it and we are not going to stop because INEC is committed to organising free, fair and credible elections at all times,’’ he said.
The director, therefore, called on relevant government agencies, including security and anti-graft organisations, to beam searchlight on people offering gratifications to electoral officers to subvert electoral processes.
He said that such measures would go a long way to strengthen the electoral process and the country’s democracy.
“Our take on it is always that if there is no giver, there cannot be a taker; we believe that while we should deal seriously with those who received gratification, the givers should not be left out.
“Our searchlight should not only be on those who take, it should also be on those who give.
“So, we must ensure that the searchlight is also beam on those who give, and deal with them in accordance with the law.
“We believe that if this is done it will help to address those who think that they can use their resources to subvert the electoral process and the course of justice,” Mr. Osaze-Uzzi said.
He said that though it was difficult to avoid contact between INEC staff and politicians, measures were in place to ensure that electoral officers did not collect gratifications for doing their jobs.
“It is a difficult thing because we deal with politicians, political parties, aspirants and candidates. Whichever way, there must be a level of interaction in course of duties between politicians and the electoral officers.
“However, we have a very strict code of conduct on proper behaviour about what you can do and what we cannot do while on duty.
“We are doing our best to ensure that our staff members are protected but on their own, they must stop from receiving audience from politicians.”