A total of 191 lawyers, including 16 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), have committed to prosecuting 1,076 electoral offenders profiled by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Daily Trust has gathered.
The 1,076 electoral offenders were arrested in 35 states across the country during the February and March 2023 general elections, the electoral umpire said, revealing that Ebonyi State topped the list with 64 cases involving 216 suspects.
Recall that the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), had during a recent visit to the commission pledged that NBA members would provide legal services pro bono for the prosecution of electoral offenders as a service to the nation.
He said the development is an unprecedented collaboration between INEC and the NBA and that the Nigeria Police is also involved in the synergy.
In fulfilment of the pledge, Maikyau, in a recent letter to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, listed 191 lawyers, including 16 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), as having accepted to take up cases in the various states free of charge, with the assistance of the Police and INEC for diligent prosecution.
It was reliably learnt on Wednesday in Abuja that the suspects linked to the case files are in custody, as they have been investigated and the necessary evidence against them harvested.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, confirmed that letters of authority have already been prepared and would be issued to the NBA team as soon as possible to commence proceedings on all the cases.
He, however, noted that the NBA returned 26 case files to the commission for onward transmission to the police because the offences involved do not fall under electoral offences as defined by the Electoral Act 2022.
A breakdown of the distribution by state shows that Ebonyi has the highest number of 64 cases involving 216 suspects; Edo State is second with 22 cases and 80 suspects, while Anambra is third with 12 cases involving 66 suspects.
Kaduna State is fourth with 11 cases and 36 suspects; Adamawa is fifth with 10 cases, 17 suspects; while Kano, Rivers and Osun share the sixth position with nine cases each involving 74, 68 and 47 suspects, respectively.
Yobe State is at the bottom of the table, with one case file implicating two suspects.
The electoral offences committed range from culpable homicide and unlawful possession of firearms, snatching and destruction of INEC items, being in possession of weapons, misconduct at polling units and theft of election results,among several others.