A former Federal Commissioner of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, on Wednesday called for severe sanctions for perpetrators of electoral offences in the country.
Clark made the call in a telephone interview with a political correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
He was reacting to the suspension of Saturday’s by-election in Rivers State by the Independent National Electoral Commission owing to widespread violence.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Obo Effanga, who announced the suspension, said that INEC also stopped the election owing to high cases of ballot snatching and attacks on its officials.
NAN reports that the election was meant to fill the Port Harcourt Constituency 3 state assembly seat left by Victor Ihunwo, now the Chairman, Port Harcourt Local Government.
Clark, while condemning the violence, said the situation was a recurring feature of elections in the country.
He said there was a compelling need for government to come hard on electoral offenders, as they were a dent on the country’s democracy.
He said: “You see, what happened in Rivers has been going on in many places; and people perpetrate violence in elections and we have it over and over because there are no sanctions.
“That is why Uwais report suggested that there should be special courts so that anybody who misbehaves during elections is arrested and dealt with.
“We are yet to have that. But I learnt there is a bill on that at the National Assembly, and I believe once this bill is passed into law, it would reduce cases of violence in elections.
“I mean when you send people to 10 years imprisonment for perpetrating violence in elections, they will not repeat it again and others will learn.
“Severe punishment for offenders. That is what I believe will end the cycle of election violence in the country.”
Clark said the heavy security deployed during elections would have been needless if people obeyed electoral laws.
The elder statesman said the high security vote for the 2019 elections by INEC could be better used for infrastructure, if violence was not part of elections.
Clark urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that all relevant laws to check electoral offences are ready ahead of 2019, to ensure the elections are free and fair.