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The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, has canvassed the ban of convicted politicians from participating in politics in order to serve as deterrent to those seeking public positions.
He, however, said the issue should be brought to the public domain in other to ascertain the best practice Nigeria should embrace.
In an interview in the current edition of “Zero Tolerance’, a publication of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Jega said in some countries the ban on convicted politicians from being involved in the electoral process was seen as a good practice, but that in Nigeria such punishment should depend on the nature of the crime committed.
Among politicians who have been convicted by courts are former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, his Delta State counterpart, James Ibori, and a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, (South), Bode George.
“Normally, there are arguments and debate in terms of what is the best system. If you catch somebody as a criminal and penalized him and he served the sentence, is that enough or not,” Mr Jega said.
“So that is what raises the question as to whether for example, if someone is arrested and prosecuted as a thief and he or she served a prison sentence whether they should also in addition be banned from participating in politics.
“In some countries, it is seen as good practice, that if somebody particularly a public officer is convicted of a criminal offence then he could be banned either for a duration or for life, from participation in politics.
“But I think these are important issues that we need to put in the public domain and have a discussion on what is the best practice that we should embrace.
“Personally, I think, depending on the level of the crime, we should ban people for particular periods before they can participate. It should not be a ban forever, but a particular period before they are allowed to participate in the electoral process.
“I think that can serve as a deterrent because those who want to be involved in politics will now have to be careful.”
The INEC chair said corruption remained the bane of Nigeria’s development, and regretted that for a long time, the fight against corruption had not been effective as it should be.
According to him, what was required in dealing decisively with the problem of corruption was for leaders to lead by example.
“It is very, very important,” he said. “If people who are entrusted with public responsibility at the most senior levels try to account for what they do, then I believe that it can inspire others within the organization to do likewise.
“But in addition to that, we must ensure that whoever is found wanting faces the law. The fight against corruption is a very important matter. In fact, it has impact on all spheres of our socio-economic life in this country, be it in the electoral process, in politics, in governance, and even in the economy and private sectors of the country.
“Really, it is important to be able to deal with the problem of corruption decisively.”
Mr Jega blamed the faulty selection process in political parties on the absence of internal democracy.
According to him, some of the breaches and various problems that resulted in wrong people coming into office could be attributed to lack of internal democracy.
“I say this because again from our own experience during the April 2011 elections, we have seen cases where some political parties deliberately take measures which undermine the integrity of the process,” he said.
He said the Commission would, in subsequent elections, monitor campaign expenses by politicians, adding that if any one was apprehended, the EFCC would be called in to investigate further and deal with the issue since it was the responsibility of the latter to deal with economic crimes.
According to him, prior to the April 2011 elections INEC did not have the capacity to monitor campaign expenses, the Commission had began to set up the mechanism and the capacity to be able to do so in the future.
Mr Jega said there were clear areas of collaboration between INEC and EFCC because there were issues in the electioneering process that fell into the jurisdiction of the latter in terms of fraud and financial crimes.
“We can easily, through a very good collaborative relationship, be able to draw the attention of the EFCC and invite them so that they can be involved,” the INEC boss said.
“It is a mutually beneficial relationship because the EFCC also receives a lot of complaints about what is happening in the electoral process and they contact us. They could ask for information which we provide, whether it is in respect of our staff or in respect of other participants in the electoral process.
“So I see room for collaboration and I am pleased to say that we have been working well together and we have very good working relationship between any office and the office of the EFCC Chairman and also ICPC.”