An independent civil society election observation body, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), has called for the creation of mobile courts to prosecute electoral offenders in the country.
TMG’s Chairperson, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, made the call on Friday at a press conference in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
Addressing reporters barely 24 hours to the keenly anticipated governorship election in the state, she explained that such courts would help reduce the incidents of violence, vote-buying, and other forms of electoral malpractices.
“TMG calls for the establishment of Electoral Offences Mobile Courts to deal with electoral offenders with dispatch before and on the day of the election as a way out to lessen violence on the day of the election.
“TMG will work to make a necessary intervention in this regard,” Akiyode-Afolabi said.
She outlined the pockets of challenges – operationally and logistically – which she said have constrained the efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in dealing with obstacles to the integrity of the electoral process in the past.
No More Excuses
The TMG chief, however, believes there is the need for INEC to judiciously use the remaining time to tighten loose ends and create conditions for continuous addition of value and improvement to the process.
She stressed that INEC’s neutrality, non-partisanship, and utmost efficiency in Saturday’s election should never be in doubt.
Akiyode-Afolabi said, “No usual or new excuse will be accepted by the citizens and TMG because INEC had enough time to prepare for a credible election. Experience is the best teacher.
“The nation and voters are tired of routine challenges of the late arrival of election materials and officers, delay in accreditation and voting, card readers failure, missing names of voters and other mistakes and human errors.”
She also spoke about the security situation in Edo ahead of the poll, noting that about 13 out of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) there were on red alert.
The TMG chief explained that this was due to pre-election violent activities of some “political gladiators who have seen the election as a do or die affair”.
She, therefore, called on the security personnel, especially the police deployed for the election to discharge their duties responsibly and professionally without bias.
Akiyode-Afolabi stated that TMG was aware of the presence of some governors from other states in Edo to support their candidates on the eve of the election.
According to her, the group condemns the practice of unnecessary last-minute solidarity which is capable of heightening tension in the state and can intimidate security agencies.
“Such solidarity should have been limited to the campaign period. Their presence will worsen cases of vote-buying and political tension judging from the nation’s experience in the past elections where ‘invading governors’ came to states having an election with bags of their state funds, their security details, and political thugs conducting themselves irresponsibly due to their immunity.
“This is unpatriotic and crisis-ridden. This style should stop immediately,” she said.
The TMG chief also asked various political parties to embrace the obligations imposed on them by the law and work together by embracing peace to restore normalcy to the electioneering process in Edo and other states.
She urged the electorate in Edo to come out and vote for the candidates of their choice without fairness or inducement.
“We call on the people of Edo State to take their fate in their hands by exercising their franchise during the election and remain resolute in their bid to entrench enduring democracy and rule of law in Nigeria,” Akiyode-Afolabi said.