On Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate passed the bill establishing National Electoral Offences Commission in consideration of a report of its committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The bill, sponsored by Abubakar Kyari, the senator representing Borno North, is aimed at unbundling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has been in charge of prosecuting electoral offences but has been overwhelmed by rising number of offences in the country.
Kyari had described INEC’s additional duty of prosecuting electoral offenders as an undue burden, attributing body’s inability to probe up to one percent of over a million alleged electoral offenders in the 2011 and 2015 general elections to its numerous election-related activities.
Many senators had supported the bill, arguing that the 2023 elections would be a war scene if the commission and special courts were not put in place to ease the Nigeria’s violent electoral process.
While stating the importance of the new bill on Tuesday, Kabiru Gaya, Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, said it would be “critical in ensuring a decrease in the level of electoral impunity” and cause “a reversal in the persistent trend of electoral offences” in the country.
The commission, made up of a chairman, secretary, and representatives from the ministries of justice, interior, defence, and information, shall investigate electoral offences created by election laws in the country, prosecute offenders and keep a record of those investigated and prosecuted.
Clause 12 of the bill pegs at least five years imprisonment, 10m fine or both for anyone, including executives of a political party, involved in electoral fraud as stated in the amended 1999 constitution.
Alteration of election result by representatives of a political party or anyone else attracts at least 10 years imprisonment, a fine of N10m or both; while solicitation of votes for or against any candidate at an election makes one liable to at least five years jail term, N10m fine or both.
The new bill also seeks to make the submission of statement of campaign and election-related expenses by political parties to the proposed commission compulsory.
Among other offences, campaigns against Nigeria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity is punishable with a 20-year jail term without an option of fine.
If President Muhammadu Buhari assents to the bill, making it become law, the likes of Sunday Igboho campaigning for the formation of Yoruba Nation and Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) will be jailed for 20 years without an option of fine, as their activities have, in the past, been interpreted by government as campaigns against Nigeria’s sovereignity.
Only two weeks ago, while promising that Kanu and his IPOB collaborators would face the full wrath of the law, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, had said: “They will all face the full wrath of the law for their activities that challenge our nation’s sovereignty and threaten its unity. No one, no matter how highly placed, is bigger than the country.”
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