In a few weeks' time, Nigerians will be electing a new crop of leaders, from the Presidency and National Assembly to the Governors and the State Houses of Assembly.
While the presidency and the National Assembly elections are scheduled to hold on Saturday, February 25, the governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls will come up on Saturday, March 11.
Ahead of the elections, it's important for the electorate to know the offences surrounding the electoral activities and the penalties attached to them. Being aware of the penalties, it is believed, will deter many from committing such offences.
Offences relating to voters registration
Anyone who registered for the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) where he/she is not entitled to register or engages in multiple registrations commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1 million or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both, according to the Electoral Act 2022.
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The same penalty applies to anyone who impersonates an INEC registration officer, forges a voters card
Offences relating to nomination
Anyone who forges or destroys nomination paper or result form, or presents forged nomination paper to an electoral officer commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for two years.
The same applies to anyone who signs a nomination paper or result form as a candidate in more than one constituency at the same election.
Forging or destroying ballot papers, certificates of return or result forms also attracts the same penalty.
You will also face the same penalty if you put any unauthorised paper or result form in a ballot box.
Anyone who removes a ballot paper from a polling station also commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for two years.
If you sign a nomination paper consenting to be a candidate at an election knowing that you are ineligible to be a candidate at that election also attracts the same penalty.
If you are also caught being in possession of a ballot paper, apart from the time you're about to vote, at a time when the election for which the ballot paper or result form is intended is not yet completed, you have committed an offence and are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N50 million or imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years or both.
Simply put, unlawful possession of a ballot paper, illegal printing of ballot papers or illegal production or importation of ballot boxes attracts a maximum fine of N50 million or imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years or both.
S*natching or destruction of election materials
If you s*natch or destroy election materials or devices, you have committed an offence which attracts 24 months imprisonment.
Improper use of voters card
If you unlawfully hand your voter’s card to some other person for use at an election other than an officer appointed to do so, you have committed an offence which attracts a fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
The same applies to being in possession of more than one voter’s card.
Bribery and conspiracy (vote buying)
If you pay money to any other person for bribery at any election or receive any money or gift for voting or refraining from voting at any election, you have committed an offence that attracts a fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
Requirement of secrecy in voting
Before paying voters, party agents usually ask them to display the ballot paper to ascertain they voted for their candidates. This is illegal.
The act states that not maintaining the secrecy of voting at a polling unit or interfering with a voter casting his vote attracts a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of six months or both.
Voting by unregistered persons
Before eligible Nigerians can vote, they must first register and obtain their voters card.
If you present a voter’s card issued to another person during an election, you shall be fined N100,000, a term of six months in prison, or both.
Disorderly conduct at elections
If you cause disorderliness or incite others to act in a disorderly manner, you shall be fined N500,000 or imprisoned for a term of 12 months or both.
2023 elections: Politicians buying PVCs from voters, INEC alleges
In another report, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday, December 12, 2022, accused politicians of buying up Permanent Voter Cards.
The allegation was made by the National Commissioner overseeing the FCT, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau states, Mohammed Haruna.
He spoke in Abuja during the launch of the #YourVoteMatters project by an election observer group, NESSACTION.