The Independent National Electoral Commission is yet to prosecute 197 electoral offenders months after the 2023 general elections.
The commission had on May 2, 2023, said it would prosecute the 215 case files handed over to it out of the 774 persons arrested for various electoral offences by the Nigeria Police Force during the 2023 polls.
The commission said it was partnering with the Nigerian Bar Association, which offered pro bono legal services for the effective prosecution of the electoral offenders arrested during the 2023 general elections.
However, a top INEC official, who spoke to our correspondent on Monday on the condition of anonymity, noted that out of the 215 files received by the commission, 197 cases that are electoral offences would be handled by INEC and the NBA.
Among the various grounds of arrest were dereliction of duty, criminal conspiracy, disorderly conduct at the election, possession of weapons, destruction of election materials, political thuggery, electoral violence, snatching of ballot boxes, and stealing of sensitive election materials, among others.
He clarified that the remaining 18 case files, including murder, were returned to the police as they did not fall under electoral offences.
The source stated, “There are 197 NBA lawyers handling the 197 electoral offenders’ cases.
“The remaining 18 cases were returned to the police because they did not fall squarely under electoral offences provided by the Electoral Act, 2022.”
The official also noted that about 19 cases that relate to financial crimes would be handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission legal officers and that of INEC.
He stated, “These 19 cases were investigated and compiled by the EFCC. They are not part of the cases forwarded by the police.
“The commission has only one case file forwarded to INEC by the ICPC.”
However, he further admitted that the INEC had yet to commence prosecution as the members of the NBA appointed to handle these electoral offences were yet to be issued letters of instruction by the commission.
He said, “The commission is yet to commence prosecution. It is hoped that the letters initiating the NBA lawyers to start the prosecution would be issued this week.”
The source also added that there may be a likelihood of more electoral offences from the off-cycle polls scheduled for November 11 in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, promised to get an update on the cases and provide a response later. He had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.