Nigeria’s Senate Okays 20-Year Jail Term for Ballot Snatchers

Nigerian senate in session

A bill seeking to establish a National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC) as well as jail ballot snatchers for 20 years has been passed by the Nigerian Senate.

Lawmakers in the red chamber passed the bill following the consideration of a report by the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano).

In his presentation on the floor of the Senate, Gaya said establishing the Electoral Offences Commission had become imperative due to INEC’s inability to prosecute electoral offenders in accordance with Sections 149 and 150(2) of the Electoral Act (as Amended).

He said it would not be realistic to expect that INEC would run free, fair, and credible elections and also prosecute all of the cases arising from the elections.

The function of the NEOC includes investigating electoral offences created by any laws relating to elections in Nigeria; prosecuting electoral offenders; and maintaining records of all persons investigated and prosecuted.

The Senate in Clause 12 of the bill adopted a minimum of five years in prison or a fine of at least N10 million or both for any officer or executive of any association or political party that engages in electoral fraud that violates provisions of sections 221, 225(1)(2)(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution or parts thereof as amended.

It approved the Committee’s recommendation of 15 years imprisonment for any person involved in ballot box snatching, supplying voter’s cards 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 also approved a 10-year jail term for any person who sells a voter’s card or is in possession of a voter’s card bearing the name of someone else or who prepares and prints a document claiming to be a registered voter’s list or card will face 10 years in prison.

The Senate approved at least 10 years imprisonment for any electoral official convicted of willfully preventing someone from voting at a polling station, rejecting or refusing to accept or count a valid vote, counts a vote not cast validly, fabricates evidence or withholds evidence, or announces or declares a false election result.

Section 20(2) provides that any officer of a court or tribunal who corruptly perverts electoral justice, during or after an election, be jailed for a minimum of 15 years.

It also gave at least fifteen years 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.

The law also provided that any security personnel or election official engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission or State Electoral Commission, who attempted to influence the outcome of an election, be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison or a fine of N30 million.

In addition, a person who disturbs the public peace on Election Day by playing musical instruments, singing, or holding a gathering near a polling station shall be guilty of breaching electoral peace and liable to six months imprisonment or a fine of N100,000 or both.

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

The bill approved a 20-year jail term without the option of a fine for anyone who propagates information that undermines independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, or unity of the federation.

Any candidate or agent who damages or steals 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 will be subject to 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.

In addition, the Senate approved 15 years in prison for anyone who transports voters to and from the poll; and three years of imprisonment for any employee who directly or indirectly unduly influences a voter while working for him.

The lawmakers approved three years and not more than five years jail term for any person who provides false information in any material particular to a public officer.

It also approved a minimum of 10 years imprisonment or at least N20 million naira 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.

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