By Salawudeen Olawale
Nigeria’s electoral agency has suspended more than 200 officers for accepting bribes to influence the outcome of the 2015 vote won by the opposition.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said late Tuesday that 205 staff were found guilty of corruption after an investigation by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“Based on their level of involvement, 205 serving INEC staff will be immediately placed on interdiction, which entails suspension from duties and being placed on half salary, pending the final determination of the cases they have with the EFCC,” it said.
The commission said the case of 70 other staff would be sent back to the EFCC for further investigation and possible prosecution.
It said the electoral officers suspended were found to have collected some three billion naira (9.5 million dollars, 8.9 million euros) in bribes to influence the election which was lost by the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan.
“There was a clear attempt to bribe INEC staff to influence the outcome of the 2015 general elections using an NGO, the West African Network of Election Observers (WANEO), made up mainly of retired senior INEC officials,” it said.
“Out of over 23 billion naira, which the EFCC report said was used to influence the elections, the committee (INEC) established that 3,046,829,000 naira was received by INEC staff in 16 states,” it added.
The NGO through which the bribe was distributed was also sanctioned.
“WANEO and its principal promoters are immediately blacklisted. The network shall no longer be involved in election observation and any other activities organised by INEC,” it said.
The commission vowed to continue to defend the integrity of the electoral process by taking tough action against officials found to have misbehaved.
The 2015 election won by the All Progressive Congress (APC) of President Muhammadu Buhari was the first opposition victory in Nigeria’s history.
Several leading members of the PDP have been accused and are standing trial for using state funds to influence the vote.
Critics however accuse the ruling APC part of a witch-hunt against PDP members in its anti-graft campaign.