*20-year compulsory imprisonment for election violence
*Election officials who rig get 10-year jail
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
ABUJA—The National Electoral Offences Commission, NEOC, Bill, prescribing stiff sanctions, including a N40 million fine or a 20-year imprisonment for candidates and politicians who disrupt elections, passed through first reading in the Senate, yesterday.
The bill also categorises several other electoral offences, which would be prosecuted by the National Electoral Offences Commission, NEOC, which is to be established by the provisions of the bill, if signed into law.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North) and co-sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) is on the trail of pleas of helplessness by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of its lack of prosecutorial powers and incapacity to disqualify those it claimed were ineligible for elections.
Welcoming the first reading of the bill which formally introduced the legislative proposal into the Senate system, Senator Kyari said it was their contribution to stopping impunity in the nation’s politics.
“With the NEOC Bill, we are sending a clear message that this Senate means real business. We do not want electoral impunity in our politics any more. I am confident this bill will become law soon,” Senator Kyari told Vanguard yesterday.
Senator Omo-Agege, who was delayed entry into the Senate on account of electoral manipulations redressed by the election tribunal, also said the bill was not just directed at redressing his own past challenges but ensuring that elections were made free and fair throughout the country.
“We have never been able to allow peoples votes to count. People go into elections, they win but they are declared losers. People who did not win are declared winners,” the lawmaker said in an interview.
The NEOC to be established under the bill aims to, among others, prevent and detect electoral offences, electoral corruption, violation of electoral due process and perversion of electoral justice;
The commission which would be headed by a retired security official, not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, would also be empowered to arrest and prosecute electoral offenders.
The bill defines electoral offences arising from violation of existing laws. National officers of political parties who fail to submit audited accounts of their parties as stipulated in Section 225 of the constitution are under the provision of the bill, liable to five years imprisonment or a fine not below N10 million.
Individuals who forge election documents, including ballot papers or mislead the authorities to make false imprints in the election register, would be liable to 15 years imprisonment without an option of a fine.
Electoral officials, who inhibit individuals from voting, or alter election results or other documents or knowingly give false evidence, withhold evidence from election tribunals or announce false results shall be liable under the provisions of the bill to 10 years imprisonment without the option of a fine.
Acts of bribery, undue influence over voters, impersonation under the provisions of the bill, would attract up to 15 years imprisonment without an option of a fine.
Judges who sit on election tribunals who pervert justice and are found to have received favours in one way or the other from candidates or their proxies shall be liable to 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine.