SERAP drags INEC to court over failure to prosecute electoral offenders

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has filed a lawsuit against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, “over the failure to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of grave electoral offences in the recently concluded off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1694/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to probe the allegations of electoral offences, including electoral violence, in the off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.

“An order of mandamus to compel INEC to promptly and effectively prosecute suspected perpetrators of these grave electoral offences, and bring to justice anyone who sponsored, aided and abetted them.

“An order of mandamus to compel INEC to disclose spending details on the off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa States, including the specific amount spent to conduct voter and civic education and details of the activities carried out in the three states.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring accountability for the grave electoral offences in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states. Granting the reliefs sought would compel INEC to live up to its constitutional and statutory responsibilities and end the impunity of electoral offenders.”

It also argued that, “The recurring cases of electoral bribery and violence make a mockery of Nigeria’s electoral process and participatory democracy. The electoral offences in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states show that INEC has learnt little or nothing from the well-documented problems during the 2023 general elections.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, argued that: “INEC has constitutional and statutory duties to ensure accountability for electoral offences in the country, and to guarantee the effective enjoyment of the citizens’ right to vote in future elections.

“The right to vote is fundamental and is the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government. Nigerians should have the final say in the election of governmental officials.

“Persistent cases of electoral offences in the country’s elections gravely violate Nigerians’ right to vote, which is central to the effective participation of every citizen.”

However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.