The European Centre for Electoral Support has commenced training of legal officers of Independent National Electoral and Police to enhance ways of prosecuting electoral offenders, ahead of 2019 general elections.
ECES is an organisation supported by European Union for democratic governance in different countries.
Speaking at the event in Sokoto on Thursday, Maria Mauro, a Senior Electoral Expert-Legal from ECES-Nigeria, said the training was part of synergy toward improving the competence of the officers concerned.
She also said that it was to ensure credible 2019 general elections and beyond.
Mauro said perpetration of election offences always undermines the smooth conduct of the elections with impacts on the integrity of the processes.
In her remarks, May Agbamuche-Mbu, the Chairperson of Legal Committee in Independent National Electoral Commission, said political interference was among the hitches to prosecuting electoral offenders in the country.
Agbamuche-Mbu said the prosecution of electoral offenders had become a burden on the commission.
She said: “Traditionally, the Police are charged with the duty of investigating these offences yet we find that the officers who witnessed the offences and made the arrest are moved out of location after the election.
“This makes gathering evidence difficult and in turn weakens the prosecution.
Political interference is also a factor, at such instances, Attorneys-General files Nolle Prosequi for cases rendering the Commission powerless.”
According to her, the training will also enhance the capacity of legal officers of INEC and Police Officers in the area of prosecuting electoral offences.
She said: “Now more than ever, there is the need to prevent and curtail various electoral offences.
“Recent happenings during the recent Ekiti State Governorship Election have thrown up the need for a closer look at the efforts aimed at prosecuting electoral offenders.
“Vote buying has become an issue as witnessed in the Ekiti State Governorship Election and INEC cannot stand aloof.”
She reiterated the commitment of the commission to fulfill its responsibilities in the area of prosecuting electoral offenders despite effort to establish separate prosecuting body.
She said: “Our capacity in terms of resources and personnel is simply not large enough to prosecute offenders in 120, 000 polling units, 8,809 Wards,
360 Federal Constituencies, 109 Senatorial Districts and 774 LGAs.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that that training has participants drawn from Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa.