THE Senate is proposing a bill for an Act to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission as part of an amendment to the 1999 Constitution.
One of the proposals in the bill is to sentence or convict a candidate, any person or agent who destroys a ballot box or papers during election to a term of twenty years imprisonment.
According to the bill, no candidate or agent of his or any other person shall grab, loot, damage or destroy in any manner, ballot boxes or ballot papers or any other electoral document or material, before, during and after an election, or take or attempt to take or cause to be taken ballot boxes or ballot papers or any other electoral document or material before, during and after an election without the permission of election official in charge of the election at a polling station.
There is a fine of at least N40,000,000 for such an offence, just as the bill is prohibiting hate speech.
Consequently, anyone who, in the course of politics or election, uses or directs the use of threatening words, behaviour or action,or display or directs the display of any written material, which is threatening or incites violence, is guilty of an offence that is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term of at least ten years or a fine of at least N40 million, or both.
The bill, entitled, “An Act to Establish the National Electoral Offences Commission and for Other Related Matters, 2019, is sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Abubakar Kyari, All Progressives Congress, APC, Borno North and co- sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, APC, Delta Central and Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South.
According to a document obtained by Vanguard, the new bill is also proposing a term of 15 years when found guilty of destroying, snatching or opening a ballot box when you are not so authorised.
If the proposed amendment scales through, any person who votes where he is not entitled to vote is also liable to an imprisonment of fifteen years, just as this applies to any one who puts into any ballot box approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, or a State Electoral Commission anything other than the ballot paper which he is authorised by law to put in.
In the proposed amendment, a person shall also be jailed for 15 years if without due authority, takes out of a polling station any electoral document or he is found in possession of any electoral document outside a polling station.
The bill, which has already passed first reading, also seeks an imprisonment of 20 years without an option of fine for a Judicial officer or officer of a court or tribunal who is found guilty of corruptly perverting electoral justice before, during and after election and if he directly or indirectly receives or accepts for himself or for any other person or on behalf of other persons any money, gift, loan, property, valuable consideration, office, place, employment or appointment, or promise of personal enrichment for the purpose of giving, rendering, procuring or directing a judicial decision in favour of or against a particular person or party in an election petition or any matter relating to an election conducted pursuit to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PDP lauds proposal
Reacting to the move, yesterday, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, welcomed the proposal for the establishment of a National Electoral Offences Commission as a way of sanitising the nation’s electoral process.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, said the proposal should go as far as prohibiting the military from participating in conduct of elections in the country.
He said: “It is a good development but they should go further than that. The bill should forbid the military from participating in the conduct of election. The military has Boko Haram to fight.
“Provided, there are no sacred cows, the bill should be all encompassing and it should spell out sanctions for corrupt Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, officials who are always eager to compromise our electoral process.”
He also called for the adoption of electronic voting to check incidences of ballot snatching as witnessed in various elections conducted in the past
“Additionally, the National Assembly should make laws for the adoption of electronic voting. Elections held in the United Kingdom last week and 24 hours later, the result was known to the public.
‘’There were no instances of ballot snatching, shootings or killings. Let us embrace electronic voting now if we don’t want to continue to be seen as a shame in the eye of the international community.”