Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu has opened up on the agency’s role in the 2019 general election.
Magu listed the lengths EFCC went to, locally and outside the country, to frustrate vote-buying in February and March elections.
The EFCC boss disclosed this at the National Policy Dialogue on Eradicating Electoral Corruption, focus on Vote Buying, held at the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN) in Keffi, capital of Nasarawa State, yesterday.
He was represented by the Commission’s Secretary, Ola Olukoyede.
Said Magu: “It was in appreciation of the damage, which the incidence of vote-buying does to the integrity of our electoral processes that we resolved to play a more active role in stemming the practice in the just concluded general election.
“The EFCC’s intervention was moderated by our understanding of the pattern of vote-buying in the elections that were held in two states, Ekiti and Osun states, in 2018. To stem the ugly practice, the Commission decided to employ a combination of preventive and enforcement strategies.
“Before the political actors became aware that the commission had become unusually interested in the electoral processes, the EFFC held sensitisation meetings with critical stakeholders in the financial sector, impressing on them the need not to lend their institutions to be used as vehicles to subvert the will of the people.
“Some of the stakeholders included bankers and Bureau De Change operators. Our engagement with them was informed by our knowledge of the roles which some of them played during the 2015 general election, helping politicians to move huge sums of money which were intended to be used to compromise election officials and other actors in the electoral process.
“Additionally, we stepped up surveillance of financial system, to track suspicious cash movement which led to some arrests.
“These measures, we believe, helped to reduce the amount of cash available to politicians for vote-buying.
“But, the intervention that was most visible to politician actors and the electorates was the unprecedented step to physically police all the polling stations and collation centres to deter prospective vote buyers and sellers. From Birnin-Kebbi to Ilorin, from Sokoto to Awka, from Kano to Abeokuta, from Lafia to Port Harcourt, officers of the Commission were massively deployed across the country, to polling units and collation centres, to disrupt vote-buying and arrest offenders.
“While prosecution of a number of offenders are currently ongoing, we have secured the conviction of a local government councillor in Gombe State, for vote-buying and also finalising arrangement to file charges against more offenders and those arrested for vote-buying and others with large sums of money which purpose they could not explain.
“But beyond the arrests, the presence of EFCC operatives at polling stations and collation centres was a major deterrence to vote-buyers.
“We believe that the fear of possible arrest by the Commission dissuaded many who would have turned such voting centres into trading posts for votes.”
In his remarks, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, said “political larceny continues to challenge the integrity of the electoral process, delegitimises the outcome of elections.
“It breeds corruption and creates a sense in political office holders that they purchased power and therefore not accountable to the people.”
He said corruption is a national problem, noting that the sooner political corruption is dealt with and removed from the electoral process, the better for our democracy.
Owasanoye said the fight against corruption is most impactful when all stakeholders come together to confront the issue.
He added that the success of policy dialogue is in developing guidelines for the definition of vote-buying, reporting incidents, sanctioning offenders and mobilising the public against corrupt practices.