The Senate has passed a bill establishing the Electoral Offences Commission, including a 20-year jail term for ballot box snatching.
This followed the consideration of a report by the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano).
Gaya, in his presentation, said establishing the Electoral Offences Commission has become imperative in view of INEC’s inability to prosecute electoral offenders in accordance with the provisions of section 149 and 150(2) of the Electoral Act (as Amended).
He said it was unrealistic to expect INEC to conduct free, fair and credible election and simultaneously prosecute Offences arising from the same elections.
The function of the Commission includes investigating electoral offences created in any laws relating to elections in Nigeria; prosecution of electoral offenders; and maintaining records of all persons investigated and prosecuted.
The Senate in Clause 12 of the bill approved at least five years imprisonment or a fine of at least N10 million naira 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 adopted the Committee’s recommendation of 15 years imprisonment for any person involved in ballot box snatching, supplying voter’s card to persons without due authority, unauthorised 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.
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 approved a term of at least 10 years imprisonment upon conviction for any election official who wilfully prevents any person from voting at the polling station, wilfully rejects or refuses to count any ballot paper validly cast, wilfully 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 years imprisonment for any judicial officer or officer of a court or tribunal who perverts electoral justice, during or after an election.
It also gave at least 15 years jail term or N30 million naira 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.
The National Electoral Offences Commission Bill 2021 prohibits any campaign against national interest.
It provides a twenty years jail term without option of fine for any person who propagates information that undermines the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, or unity of the federation.
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 the election official in charge of the polling station attracts at least 20 years in prison or a fine of at least N40 million.
The Senate approved at least 15 years imprisonment for any person who conveys voters to and from the poll; and three years imprisonment for any employee who directly or indirectly exerts undue influence on a voter in his employ.
The upper chamber approved three years and not more than five years imprisonment for any person who provides false information in any material particular to a public officer.
It also gave the nod for at least 10 years 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.