Femi Falana, the human rights lawyer, says the house of representatives should pass the Electoral Offences Commission bill to tackle cases of violence in the 2023 elections.
Speaking on Sunday in an interview with Channels Television, Falana said many LGAs have reportedly been taken over by criminals.
He said it will be difficult and problematic to conduct elections in an atmosphere that is ridden with lawlessness.
Falana said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) alone cannot carry out a successful poll, adding that the people must be ready to defend their votes.
“There are local governments in Nigeria today, where farmers have to pay levies imposed on them by terrorists. You can’t talk of elections in those places,” he said.
“The members of the political class and the government will have to sit down instead of jumping all over the place. Can we really hold elections under an atmosphere of violence and lawlessness as we are currently witnessing?
“Because if this trend continues, the credibility of the elections will be questioned. Candidate will say I would have won in places where you didn’t hold election, and that would be problematic.
“I would like to appeal to the house representatives to pass the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, which was passed last July by the Senate. Surprisingly the house of representatives has not passed the bill to prosecute electoral offences and unless we do that, the 2023 elections may be marred by violence of unimaginable proportion.
“Right now, those who are committing electoral offences are not being arrested or prosecuted, and that cannot continue if we want to have good elections.
“INEC alone cannot conduct credible election. The people themselves must go beyond organising rallies, the people themselves, beyond attending rallies, must defend their votes. Under the new Electoral Act, elections would be won and lost at each polling unit, and there would be automatic transmission of results.
“We must show that we are civilised people prepared to operate under the rule of law. We can just throw up our hands in helplessness when there is a government in place.”
More than a year ago, the senate passed the bill establishing the Electoral Offences Commission.
The approval followed the consideration of the report of the senate committee on INEC.
The bill seeks to provide the legal framework to establish and empower the National Electoral Offences Commission to investigate and prosecute electoral offences.
It also seeks to establish the investigation, legal and prosecution unit that will be responsible for dealing with matters connected to mutual international assistance in criminal matters involving electoral offences.