Since the 2015 general election, there have been 125 electoral offenses filed before various courts across the country. Out of which 60 convictions have been secured according to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) Professor Mahmoud Yakubu.
Nigerians have had to contend with Electoral Malpractices for two decades, from 1999 to 2019 elections which have been tainted by fraud or misconduct such as bribery, vote buying, rigging and other vices.
The consequences of these offences have continued to affect the nation adversely. Many Nigerians believe that these factors have made it more difficult for credible candidates to win elections and had out-muscled individuals who truly wanted to serve.
Implication of Electoral Misconduct
Today, many citizens have lost confidence and trust in the electoral system and the commitment of the government towards credible polls, resulting in Political Apathy. They hold on to the phrase, “Our Votes don’t count” for some “it’s not a do or die affair”, and no amount of persuasion could make them change their minds.
Unfortunately, in almost every election in Nigeria, electoral malpractices had led to violence and continuous breakdown of “Law and Order,” “Riots”, Loss of lives and destruction of property.
Such electoral misconduct also portrayed the country in a bad light to the international community and made it lost confidence in the leadership recruitment process of the country.
Regrettably, the electoral body, political parties, candidates or the electorate are all culpable.
A painful analysis is that the typical Nigerian voter is mostly concerned with immediate gains and sometimes exchanges their votes for material benefits when motivated. Although some had blamed this attitude on the abject poverty index of the people due to the lack of effective and sustainable empowerment programmes and policies by the various levels of the government.
Electoral Penalties and Offences
A free and fair election process is still essential to the development of democracy.
There are various electoral laws in Nigeria that regulate the electoral process as captured in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Electoral Act 2022 and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Rules and Regulations on the conduct of elections.
INEC had raised alarm in December last year that some politicians were buying Permanent Voter Cards from prospective voters by financially inducing them to harvest their voter identification Numbers ahead of the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner overseeing the FCT, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Plateau States, Malam Muhammed Haruna who disclosed this during the #Yourvotematters# campaign, confirmed that two people were recently convicted in Sokoto and Kano States for illegal possession of PVCs.
Allegedly, the youths are often the ones used to perpetrate some of these heinous crimes. “Wetin you gain?” Which direct translation in Queen’s English means, what will you profit from? Emphasises that the youths must take action by laying premium on how the political process is conducted as future leaders and for future generations as well as building a virile Nigeria of their dream where quality of life will be second to none. As we make our bed, so shall we lay on it.
Part VII, Section 114-129 provide what constitue electoral offences in the Electoral Act 2022. Below is the representation of some of the offences and punishment.
As we look forward to the elections in February, a legal practitioner, Mr Maxwell Okpara advised the electorate, especially the youth, to bear in mind that the law will not spare any violator, hence, the need for them to keep off the electoral offences to help secure democracy.
In his new year message, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerians to resist attempts by politicians to use them to create unrest during elections and reiterated his resolve to ensure the 2023 polls are free and fair.
“We must also resist every attempt to be used by politicians to create unrest in any form to disrupt the elections. We, as government, will ensure such activities are met with the full force of the law”
He said, ” this administration’s landmark, amended Electoral Act will ensure that we have free and fair elections across the Nation, we as Nigerians must also take responsibility to ensure we participate in ensuring that the 2023 elections are free and fair by not engaging in anti-state activities and other nefarious acts that may affect the run of the polls.
Writing by Hadiza Abdulrahman, editing by Daniel Adejoh