Falana seeks prosecution of paid clerics for election malpractices

A human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has called for the prosecution of clerics who are paid to pray for candidates  running for elective offices.

Falana, who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday at the public presentation of a partnership between some stakeholders in the elections, noted that the focus of electoral misconduct should not be placed solely on those arrested on election   day.

The partnership, headed by the Transition Monitoring Group and  Human and Environmental Development Agenda, includes the Police Service Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.

According to the lawyer, by virtue of Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), any form of inducement is a serious criminal offence.

He however noted that since 1999, nobody had been prosecuted for inducing voters, “yet we witness inducements during our elections”.

Falana added, “In the case of Falae and Obasanjo, which was decided in 1999, the Court of Appeal held that even though there was evidence that money, bags of rice and salt were distributed by the PDP — that was the allegation — the court said,  ‘yes, but there is no evidence or proof  that the beneficiary of the inducements, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, directed the party to distribute or give out any form of gifts for the election.’

“Since then, it has always been difficult to prove that the beneficiaries of inducements   directly gave instructions to their parties or their agents to distribute money, rice, salt or whatever.

“We have left out those who are spending money on campaigns beyond  the  stipulation of the Electoral Act; people or parties offering money to defect; money spent on  the media to manipulate stories and make phony projections; pastors and mallams to pray for candidates to win elections; unemployed people attending rallies; thugs to attack political opponents and disrupt rallies; and election officers.

“If we really want to challenge the violation of the Electoral Act via  the monetisation of  elections, we have to go beyond those who are likely to be arrested on  election day.

“With the cooperation of the police and other  security agencies, it is easy to arrest those who distribute money during elections.”