Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has described the TraderMoni scheme of the federal government as direct vote buying.
Mr Dogara made the remarks while delivering his address at the one day ‘Public Hearing on Vote Buying and Improving Electoral Processes in Nigeria’, on Monday, in Abuja.
TraderMoni is an empowerment scheme created specifically for petty traders and artisans across the country.
The event organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had the leader of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki, in attendance among other federal lawmakers.
It had earlier reported that Saraki described the scheme as sophisticated vote buying.
“I am delighted to address you on this public hearing, this is one of the important issue of the moment that needs to be addressed before the 2019 general elections,” Dogara said.
“For election to be qualified under a Democratic Government for it must be free, fair and credible.
“The recent phenomenal and direct buying of vote is very disheartening. As citizens, we must not surrender to this criminality.
“Vote Buying and other criminal electoral process has left our citizen in a disaster because they are ruled by fear rather than challenging them.
“I call on all Nigerians to rise and condemn all practices of Vote Buying as it is the worst form of corruption and should be treated as such,” Dogara said.
Delivering his remarks, Saraki who said the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, who doubles as the head of Electoral Commissions in West Africa, cannot afford to conduct an election that will not be seen as credible, peaceful, free and fair.
“It is instructive that in 2015, we in Nigeria set an enviable standard that encouraged more countries in Africa to democratise. In 2019, we cannot lower the standard. Quite clearly, there should be positive progression,” Saraki said.
“We must up the ante, therefore, because whatever we do will have impact on the continent and serve as a representation of Africa on the global stage.
“Permit me to observe, at this point, that our primary concern should be to entrench global best practices in our electoral process, ensuring that these are backed by legislations to make them sustainable and permanent.
“That is why I enjoin the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly to come together and review all issues concerning the 2019 elections dispassionately and with patriotism.
”For example, the use of Incident Form to bypass the lawful process of accreditation and voting is not good for our country. We must do away with it.
“This is one of those issues concerning which, whether or not there is a law, all of us as stakeholders should come to agreement and address the anomaly. At the very least, it is one minimum condition that we must meet as we move towards 2019.
“All stakeholders should demonstrate the fact that a credible and transparent election is far better and more important than who wins that election.
“We cannot afford to send the wrong signals with our actions or inactions as we prepare for the next elections. The world should be able to take positive cues from us that we are ready to improve on our process and make our electoral process that much more transparent and credible. This is because perception matters, as you all know. Perception is, in fact, reality.
“This is necessary because the responsibility to conduct a credible poll is solely that of the Commission. This is elemental to retaining the confidence of the electorate.
“At this point, it does seem to me that the onus is on INEC to demonstrate its independence. It should be pro-active and take bold decisions.”
Saraki added that there is need to curb the “unlawful interference by security agents in the voting process.”
“It is all too clear that security agents are beginning to emerge as major clogs in the election process. Reports of collusion with political actors to disenfranchise voters is very worrying indeed.
“We cannot under any circumstances militarise elections, because that defeats the purpose of free, fair and credible polls. In an election, access to the polling unit for the purpose of casting one’s vote is the bare minimum.
“Once a voter is denied the opportunity to vote through bullying, intimidation and other forms of harassment, then vote rigging and electoral malpractice have free reign.
“The Commission should further seek the co-operation of the respective security agencies to ensure strict compliance.
“It is that way that Nigerians can trust the process, and it will be clear to all that the right steps have been taken with regard to the involvement of security agents.”