No Law Bars Gifts To Voters During Campaigns — INEC

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said gifts distributed to the electorate during political campaigns should not be termed as bribe.

He said while distribution of gifts by political parties to people had “grey areas,” doing so could not incriminate the givers.

Some minority parties had described distribution of gifts by major parties as bribery.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, in an interview with our correspondent on Friday, however, debunked the notion.

He said a constitutional basis needed to be established before gifts from political parties and politicians could be referred to as bribery.

Idowu said, “If they say people are giving gifts, how do we interpret that (as bribes)? What is INEC’s provision to act on that? They (the givers) may be telling a lie but if they say they are giving gifts for Ramadan, or if they say they are doing service support, what will INEC be able to do?

“It’s a grey area that is left simply for interpretation. If there is any law that is broken, then we will act on that. How can you tell that what they are doing has anything to do with electoral law?”

Jega’s spokesperson explained that the provisions of the electoral law instead prohibit distribution of gifts on Election Day, within the vicinity of the polling unit.

“That is clearly an electoral offence by which INEC can have the police arrest such a person. But, outside that vicinity, if someone goes to another’s house to visit or to give him something, it is not an issue INEC can intervene on,” he said.

Idowu stated that what was left for the commission was to appeal to the people to make sure they voted according to their conscience.

“We should also not underestimate voters, anyway. Voters are not stupid. Quite a number of voters know what they want. What the media should keep doing is to encourage them to vote from their conscience; vote on the basis of programmes, principles and policies, and not be bullied by any ties to gifts.”

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