Politics

SERAP urges Muhammadu Buhari to arrest politicians buying PVCs

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has urged traditional leaders to persuade their subjects, especially young people, to refrain from any violent behaviour in the run-up to the 2023 elections.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate reports that some Nigerian politicians illegally purchase Permanent Voter Cards from ordinary citizens and swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

SERAP also demanded that he name and shame, regardless of political affiliations, the politicians and their sponsors suspected of being involved in these grave electoral and human rights crimes.

The Independent National Electoral Commission recently claimed that certain politicians are purchasing PVCs from “poor” Nigerians.

According to reports, the Northern Elders Forum has confirmed that certain northern politicians purchase PVCs with as little as N2,000.

“Buying of PVCs from poor Nigerians is a threat to fair and representative elections, as it amounts to vote buying, undue influence, and improper electoral influence,” the organisation wrote in a letter dated December 17, 2022, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

According to SERAP, “the allegations that politicians and their sponsors are buying PVCs from poor Nigerians are grave violations of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended],” as well as the Electoral Act and Nigeria’sNigeria’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.

If politicians and their supporters continue to buy PVCs and get away with their crime against the Nigerian people, then “the right to vote is central to the enjoyment of other basic human rights,” as stated by SERAP.

The letter stated, in part, “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“No body politic worthy of being called a democracy entrusts the selection of leaders to a process of auction or barter. Inducing poor Nigerians to sell their PVCs intrudes on their freedom to make up their minds.”

“The buying of PVCs from poor Nigerians and the resulting deprivation of the right to participation would completely compromise the legitimacy of representative government.”

“Investigating, identifying, naming and shaming those suspected to be involved in these criminal acts of vote-buying and undue influence, and bringing them to justice would promote the people’s right to vote, and public trust and confidence in the electoral process.”

“The Nigerian Constitution provides in Section 14(1)(c) that ”the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured per the provisions of this Constitution.” Sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act prohibit electoral bribery and undue influence before, during and after any election.”

“Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’Peoples’ Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance guarantee the right to political participation, including the right to vote.”

As a state party to many international human rights treaties, Nigeria is obligated to work toward “the provision of the necessary conditions to stimulate citizen engagement.”

“Buying of PVCs is a variation of vote buying and undue influence. It would undermine the ability of INEC to effectively discharge its responsibilities under Section 153 of the Nigerian Constitution and paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule of the Constitution, and the Electoral Act 2022.”

“It would lead to disparate and discriminatory treatment of poor Nigerians, encourage poor governance, and weaken citizens’ capacity to hold their ”elected officials’ accountable for their actions.”

“When politicians and their sponsors decide to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such politicians will show a disregard for democratic rules and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.”

“Acting swiftly to address the brazen impunity and allegations of politicians purchasing PVCs from poor Nigerians would also send a strong message to politicians that your government would not tolerate any infringement of the electoral process ahead of the 2023 general elections.”

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