BY BODE GBADEBO |
In order to guarantee the sanctity of the ballot and as well engender a credible electoral process in the country ahead of the 2023 general election, the National Assembly has made far-reaching provisions in the Electoral Offences Commission Bill and the Electoral Act (2010) Amendment Bill (2020) which are under consideration and will soon be passed into law.
Both legislations are to discourage underhand dealings and malpractices in the nation’s electoral process.
In the proposals included in the proposed electoral law, candidates who submit false credentials and their political parties would be fined N5million and N50million apiece for that infraction, plus a possible jailtime for the offender.
Consequently, the Electoral Act (2010) Amendment Bill (2020) is currently at an advanced stage and will also be passed into law within the second quarter of the year.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) made the disclosures on Channels TV’s Politics Today monitored by our correspondent in Abuja last night.
Gaya said the new electoral law, among other things, provides for a 180-day window for party candidates to emerge before the secondary elections contrary to the current provision of 90 days.
The lawmaker explained that the wisdom behind the new provision in the Electoral Act was to make sure that only authentic party candidates participate in the election contest as all pre-election matters would have been resolved before 180 days.
Gaya added that this will ensure that only the people’s choices emerge winners through the ballot box and through not litigations as is being witnessed now, even as he called on the judiciary to recalibrate itself for better results.
Also, the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, if passed into law will, among others, address the issue of fake certificates presentation by contestants as offenders will be fined a sum of N5million and a jail term if found liable.
The lawmaker, however, said the judiciary also needs to be take a bold step towards making the electoral process a credible one.
“There is a need to have real discipline and lots of corrections in the judiciary. You will find out that we have even conflicting judgements on some of the (election) cases.
“I believe that the judiciary too need to take stronger steps to fight corruption within the system and be able to stand effectively by the law and be able to assist on how the elections could be free and fair.
“Because in some cases, politicians just rush to the courts and do what they want and get what they want to get, and that really demoralises most of the political aspirants in politics, and that also does no give credibility to any election.
“The electorate must be given the right to choose who they want,” Gaya said.
When asked the specific provisions of the new electoral law that will enhance the electoral process, he said: “It was captured in that case and we even give more room now. We put 180 days before election, which is about six months for a party to have a candidate.”
Gaya continued: “I believe what we have there (the amended Electoral Act) will take care of the current problems we have. And I believe the essence of amending the Electoral Act (2010) is to get out of the problems that we went through in the last few elections, the experience we had – the good, the bad systems of elections we went through.”
On the punishment for riggers and other electoral offenders, Senator Gaya said the measures put in place in the Electoral Offences Commission Bill are harsh but they are the best ways to sanitise the electoral system.
He revealed that the public hearing on the Bill, which is the brainchild of both the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters, would take place at the end of the month, after which a report will be presented to both chambers of the National Assembly for consideration.
“Let me tell you that we in the committee of INEC, we have now brought up a Bill on electoral offences commission that will be dealing with all the offences committed during elections, where people will snatch ballot box or beat people or force an electoral officer to declare a result, or even kill people at the venue of the election.
“Electoral Offences Commission is going to take these matters seriously. Unless we have people punished for the offences they commit, sadly people will not learn their lessons.
“And even when a party submits a name of a candidate that is not qualified, after disqualifying the candidate, then the law will take effect on the party. The party will be punished and made to pay almost N50million or the leadership will be punished for that.
“And the candidate that fails to submit a good or credible result, that man will also be punished. He will be made to pay about N5million or be handed five years imprisonment.
“So, I believe that if all these measures taken, they are harsh but at least they are best ways to be able curtail these kind of events happening again,” Gaya added.