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Friday, June 9, 2023

Senate passes electoral offences commission, offenders risk 20-yr jail term

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The Senate on Tuesday approved up to 20-year jail term for anybody convicted of snatching a ballot box during an election.

The Upper Chamber also okayed a fine of at least N10million or both for any officer or executives of any association or political party that engages in electoral fraud.

The Senate approved at least 15-imprisonment for any person who conveys voters to and from the poll and three- year imprisonment for any employee who directly or indirectly exerts undue influence on a voter in his employ.

It also approved three -year and not more than five- year imprisonment for any person who provide false information in any material particular to a public officer.

It also approved at least 10-year imprisonment or at least N20 million fine or both for any person who uses hate speech to stir up ethnic, religious or racial hatred, social or political insecurity or violence against anyone or group of persons.

Also, any candidate or agent who damages or snatches ballot boxes, ballot papers or election materials before, during and after an election without the permission of election official in charge of the polling station attracts at least 20- year imprisonment or a fine of at least N40 million.

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These resolutions of the Upper Chamber, among others, were contained in a Bill, which seeks to establish the “Electoral Offences Commission and for other related matters, 2021,” passed by the Upper Chamber at plenary.

The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Upper Chamber adopted the Committee’s recommendation of 15- year imprisonment for any person involved ballot box snatching, supplying voter’s card to persons without due authority, unauthorized printing of voters’ register, illegal printing of ballot paper or electoral document, and importation of any device or mechanism by which ballot paper or results of elections may be extracted, affected or manipulated, and voting at an election when he is not entitled to vote.

The Senate in Clause 12 of the Bill approved at least five years imprisonment or a fine of at least N10million or both, for any officer or executives of any association or political party that engages in electoral fraud that contravenes the provisions of clauses 221, 225(1)(2)(3) and (4) and 227 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

It also approved 10 years imprisonment for any person who sells voter’s card, or in possession of any voter’s card bearing the name of another person, or prepares and prints a document or paper purporting to be a register of voters or a voter’s card.

The Senate also okayed a term of at least 10- year upon conviction for any election official who “willfully prevents any person from voting at the polling station, willfully rejects or refuses to count any ballot paper validly cast, willfully counts any ballot paper not validly cast, gives false evidence or withholds evidence, and announces or declares a false result at an election.”

The Upper Chamber in Clause 20(2) approved at least 15- year imprisonment for any judicial officer or officer of a court or tribunal who corruptly perverts electoral justice, during or after an election.

It also prescribed at least 15- year jail term or N30 million fine for any security personnel or election official engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission or State Electoral Commission who attempts to influence the outcome of an election.

In addition, any person found to disturb the public peace on “Election Day” by playing musical instruments, singing or holding an Assembly where a polling station is located shall be guilty of breaching electoral peace and liable to six months imprisonment or a fine of at least N100, 000 or both.

Also, any person acting for himself or on behalf of any organisation or political party or candidate or his agent with the intention of prejudicing the result of an election, damage or defame, in any manner, the character of any candidate in an election or his family member by making, saying, printing, airing or publishing in the print or electronic media false accusation on any matter shall be guilty of serious corrupt practice and liable on conviction to a term of at least 10 years or a fine of N10million or both.

Any person soliciting or giving votes for or against any political party or candidate at an election, or found to affix campaign materials on any private house, public buildings or structures, or prints posters and banners without the name and address of the political party to which the candidate or person belongs contravenes sub-clause (1) to (5) and guilty of an offence and liable to at least five years or a fine of at least N10million, or both.

The National Electoral Offences Commission Bill, 2021, prohibits any campaign against national interest.

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