Dissecting the Election Offences Bill

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Independent Electoral Commission

The Election Offences Bill currently before the two arms of the National Assembly prescribes various penalties culpability ranging from monetary fines to jail terms, writes Chuks Okocha

The proposed Election Offences Bill has prescribed offences and punishment for any political party or individuals that contravenes the bill.
The jail terms or fines ranges from N1 million or six months imprisonment or jail term of 30 years.

The public hearing of the bill took place last week, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu called for a speedy passage to ensure a smooth journey to the 2023 general elections.
A copy of the bill obtained by THISDAY specifies jail term or fine to offenders including political parties.

From the provisions of the bill, “Where national officers or executives of any political party violate sections 221, 225(1), (2), (3) and (4) and 227 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), punishment is a term of imprisonment of at least five years or a fine of at least N10 million or both”

Sections 221, 225 and 227 of the 1999 constitution as amended states in Article 221, by the way stated that “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.

While Article 225 states, that (1) Every political party shall, at such times and in such manner as the Independent National Electoral Commission and publish a statement of its assets and liabilities. (2) Every political party shall submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission a detailed annual statement and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets together with a similar statement of its expenditure in such form as the Commission may require. (3) No political party shall (a) hold or possess any funds or other assets outside Nigeria; or (b) be entitled to retain any funds or assets remitted or sent to it from outside Nigeria. (4) Any funds or other assets remitted or sent to a political party from outside Nigeria shall be paid over or transferred to the Commission within 21 days of its receipt with such information as the Commission may require. (5) The Commission shall have power to give directions to political parties regarding the books or records of financial transactions which they shall keep and, to examine all such books and records (6) The powers conferred on the Commission under subsection (4) of this section may be exercised by it through any member of its staff or any person who is an auditor by profession, and who is not a member of a political party.

Also, Article 227, states “No association shall retain, organise, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised and trained or equipped for that purpose.

On the offences arising from violating existing laws, the bill states that violation of the Electoral Act No. 6., 2010 (as amended) or any other law on or regarding elections is criminalized and attracts sanctions as provided in those laws.

For instance, it said, that “Where national officers or executives of any political party violate sections 221, 225(1), (2), (3) and (4) and 227 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), punishment is a term of imprisonment of at least five years or a fine of at least N10 million or both”

The bill further states, “Any person who – (1) knowingly makes any false statement on or in connection with any application to be placed on the National Register of Voters kept by the Independent National Electoral Commission; or (2) forges or fraudulently defaces or fraudulently destroys any document for the purpose of nomination for an elective office, or delivers to the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission any document for the purpose of nomination.

This clause provides for punishment for offences listed with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years. It also punishes offences relating to election administration by the State Independent Electoral Commission.

It also states that it is a punishable offence if any one forges or counterfeits or fraudulently defaces or fraudulently destroys any electoral document or the official perforation, stamp or mark on any electoral document issued by the
Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral
Commission; or without due authority supplies any electoral document issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission to any person; or sells or offers to sell any electoral document issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission to any person or purchases or offers to purchase any electoral document from any person

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It further states that it is an offence if not being a person entitled to be in possession of any electoral document which has been marked with any official perforation, stamp or mark of the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission has any such electoral document in his possession; or
puts into any ballot box approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission anything other than the ballot paper which he is authorised by law to put in; or without due authority takes out of a polling station any electoral document or is found in possession of any electoral document outside a polling station; or without due authority destroys, takes, opens or otherwise interferes with any ballot box, ballot paper or packet of ballot papers or electoral documents in use or intended to be used for the purposes of an election.

According to the bill that has undergone a public hearing, it is an offence without due authority to print any electoral document or ballot paper or what purports to be or is capable of being used as an electoral document or ballot paper at an election; or for the purposes of an election, manufactures, constructs, imports, has in his possession, supplies or uses, or causes to be manufactured, constructed, imported, supplied or used, any appliance, device or mechanism by which a ballot paper or results of elections may be extracted, affected or manipulated after having been deposited in a ballot box during the polling at any election; or not being authorized to do so under the provisions of this Bill, makes any mark on any ballot paper issued to any person other than to himself.

The bill further states that voting at any election when he or she is not entitled to vote, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years.

The clause on impersonation at any election is criminalized and the penalty is to imprisonment for a term of
not more than one year.

While punishment for impersonation is imprisonment for a term of not more than one year under this clause, clause 19 makes the punishment imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years.

On undue Influence, the bill states that a person is guilty of undue influence where he directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person acting on his behalf, makes use of or threatens any force, violence or restraint, or any temporal or spiritual injury, damage or loss, or any fraudulent device, trick or deception, or social boycott, calamity of any kind, fear or promise, or by boast, coercion, blackmail or intimidation to prevent a person from voting or becoming a candidate or to cause him to withdraw if he is already a candidate, or preventing a person from being nominated.

In clause 20, the bill states that a corrupt perversion of Electoral Justice, “A judicial officer or officer of a Court or Tribunal who corruptly perverts electoral justice before, during or after an election by any money, gift, loan, property, valuable consideration, office, place, employment or appointment, or a promise of personal enrichment is punished by imprisonment for a term of at least 20 years without an option of a fine.

On Clause 21, the bill states that “Election officials, security personnel not to cause influence.

This clause prohibits election officials, and security personnel from influence influencing the outcome of an election, except through lawfully casting their votes, adding that “Punishment imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years or a fine of at least N30 million or both.

On Clause 22 which is prohibition or
Disturbing Public peace, it states that directly or indirectly disturbing public peace, from three hours prior to the commencement of an election to the completion of the election on the day of an election, is criminalised. Such disturbance of public peace could be through using loudspeakers, megaphones or similar devices,

“Punishment is imprisonment for a term of at least 6 months or a fine of at least N100,000 or both, while Clause 23 prohibits damaging of character

It states further, “No person acting for himself or on behalf of any organisation or political party or candidate or his agent or other person shall, with an intention of prejudicing the result of any election, damage or defame, in any manner, the character of any candidate in an election or his family member.

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Punishment is imprisonment for a term of at least 10 years or a fine of at least N10 million or both

In Clause 24, Restriction on Election Campaigns, it states that under this clause, election materials shall bear the name and address of the political party, aspirant, candidate or person to whom/which they belong.

The clause prohibits writing on any religious, archaeological or historical buildings, monuments or structures for the purpose of elections. It also prohibits affixing any private house, shop, wall or other structure without the permission of the owner thereof, etc.

Punishment for violation is imprisonment for a term of at least five years or a fine of at least N10 million or both.

Clause 25 is the prohibition on campaign against national interest This clause prohibits any campaign that undermines or is capable of undermining the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, or unity of the federation. It also prohibits campaigns that promote feeling of enmity or hate on the basis of any religion. community, caste, tribe, language or territorial region.
Punishment for violation is imprisonment for a term of at least 20 years without an option of a fine

In clause 26, is the prohibition on obstructing votes counting or other acts inhibiting electoral due process
This clause prohibits and criminalises various acts of obstruction of votes counting or other acts inhibiting electoral due process.
Punishment is imprisonment for a term of at least 20 years or a fine of at least N40 million.

Clause 27 prohibits payment or contract for payment for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at any election – (a) on account of the conveyance of voters to or from the poll, whether for the hiring of vehicles, vessels or animals of transport of any kind whatsoever, or for railway fares, or otherwise; or (b) to or with a voter on account of the use of any house, land, building, or premises for the exhibition of any address, bill, or notice, or account of the exhibition of any address, bill or notice.
In line with the above, the clause criminalises various acts incidental to conveying voters to and from the poll.
Punishment for violation is imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years. There is no option of fine.

Clause 28 states that employers to allow employees reasonable period for voting stating that, any “Every employer shall, on polling day, allow every voter in his employ a reasonable period for voting, and no employer shall make any deduction from the pay or other remuneration of any such voter.

The punishment for violation is fine of at least N6 milluon or to imprisonment for a term of least three years or both.

Exceptions to the provision are members of the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police Force, State Security Service, the Nigerian Prisons Service and all Federal Government security and law enforcement agencies, election officials, etc

On special duties of the units, the bill enumerates responsibilities of the Investigation, Legal and Prosecution Unit, which are the prevention and detection of electoral offences;
(b) the arrest and apprehension of perpetrators of electoral offences;
(c) dealing with matters connected with mutual international assistance in criminal matters involving electoral offences. (d) prosecuting persons accused of committing electoral offences, electoral corruption, violation of electoral due process and perversion of electoral justice; and (e) performing such other legal duties as the Commission may refer to it from time to time

The clause further empowers the Commission to prescribe the responsibilities of other units from time to time. Only the responsibilities of the
Investigation, Legal and Prosecution Unit are specified. Responsibilities of other Units are left to the Commission to prescribe.

Clause 13 states that it is an offences if “Any person knowingly makes any false statement on or in connection with any application to be placed on the National Register of Voters kept by the Independent National Electoral Commission; or (2) forges or fraudulently defaces or fraudulently destroys any document for the purpose of nomination for an elective office, or delivers to the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission any document for the purpose of nomination This Clause provides for punishment for offences listed with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years. It also punishes offences relating to election administration by the State Independent Electoral Commission.

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For an elective office knowing it to be forged; or (3) forges or counterfeits or fraudulently defaces or fraudulently destroys any electoral document or the official perforation, stamp or mark on any electoral document issued by the
Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral
Commission; or (4) without due authority supplies any electoral document issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission to any person; or (5) sells or offers to sell any electoral document issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission to any person or purchases or offers to purchase any electoral document from any person; or (6) not being a person entitled to be in possession of any electoral document which has been marked with any official perforation, stamp or mark of the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission has any such electoral document in his possession; or
(7) puts into any ballot box approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission or a State Electoral Commission anything other than the ballot paper which he is authorised by law to put in; or (8) without due authority takes out of a polling station any electoral document or is found in possession of any electoral document outside a polling station; or (9) without due authority destroys, takes, opens or otherwise interferes with any ballot box, ballot paper or packet of ballot papers or electoral documents in use or intended to be used for the purposes of an election; or (10) without due authority prints any electoral document or ballot paper or what purports to be or is capable of being used as an electoral document or ballot paper at an election; or
(11) for the purposes of an election, manufactures, constructs, imports, has in his possession, supplies or uses, or causes to be manufactured, constructed, imported, supplied or used, any appliance, device or mechanism by which a ballot paper or results of elections may be extracted, affected or manipulated after having been deposited in a ballot box during the polling at any election; or (12) not being authorized to do so under the provisions of this Bill, makes any mark on any ballot paper issued to any person other than to himself; or (13) votes at any election when he is not entitled to vote, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15years.

Clause 15 creates offences by election officials such as making false entries, permitting voting in a manner prescribed for .This clause contains a combination of strict liability offences and intentional
incapacitated persons when it believes the person is not incapacitated, wilfully preventing persons from voting, wilfully counting ballot papers in favour of any candidate, giving false evidence, announcing false result, etc.

Clause 16 is on impersonation
at any election is criminalized and the penalty is to imprisonment for a term of
not more than one year.

While punishment for impersonation is imprisonment for a term of not more than one year under this clause, clause 19 makes the punishment imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years.

On Clause 17 undue Influence
“A person is guilty of undue influence where he directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person acting on his behalf, makes use of or threatens any force, violence or restraint, or any temporal or spiritual injury, damage or loss, or any fraudulent device, trick or deception, or social boycott, calamity of any kind, fear or promise, or by boast, coercion, blackmail or intimidation to prevent a person from voting or becoming a candidate or to cause him to withdraw if he is already a candid ate, or preventing a person from being nominated.

Punishment is imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years under Clause 19.

QUOTE

On undue Influence, the bill states that a person is guilty of undue influence where he directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person acting on his behalf, makes use of or threatens any force, violence or restraint, or any temporal or spiritual injury, damage or loss, or any fraudulent device, trick or deception, or social boycott, calamity of any kind, fear or promise, or by boast, coercion, blackmail or intimidation to prevent a person from voting or becoming a candidate or to cause him to withdraw if he is already a candidate, or preventing a person from being nominated.

Thisday

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