The House’ proceedings obtained in Abuja on Sunday indicated that the report was considered in the Committee of the Whole House, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun.
The adoption of the report was the last step before the third reading of the bill.
It was a harmonised report on two bills submitted by the Committee on Electoral Matters chaired by Mrs. Aisha Dukku.
The bills were, “A Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Tribunal for the Purpose of Trying Electoral Offences;” and “A Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigerian Electoral Offences Commission Charged with the Responsibility of Prohibition and Prosecution of Electoral Offences.”
It had been reported on December 25 that the House would consider and pass the report in January, soon after lawmakers would have reconvened from the Christmas and New Year break.
The House endorsed penalties ranging from a fine of N500,000 to N50million or a prison term of up to 10 years for electoral offences.
An offender may also pay both fine and a get a prison sentence on conviction.
Offenders will be tried not in conventional courts but by a Commission/Electoral Tribunal to be established specifically for the purpose of handling election-related offences in the country.
In the same vein, the maximum expenses to be incurred by a presidential candidate at an election shall tally at N1bn.
Governorship candidate shall spend no more than N200m, while senatorial candidate shall spend N40m and those contesting for seat in the House of Representatives shall N20m on their campaigns.
Candidates must not receive donations exceeding N1m.
Violators, in the case of presidential election, shall face a fine of N1m or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
For defaulting governorship candidate , the fine is N800,000, or a prison term of nine months or both.
In the case of senatorial election, the fine is N600,000 or a prison term of six months or both.
House Representatives’ candidates, who breach the law, shall pay a fine of N500,000 or face a prison term of five months or both.
Under the proposed law, unauthorised printing, distribution, importation or destruction of ballot papers and result sheets attracts a jail term of 10 years.
The offender has an option of a fine of N50m.
The provision adds in Sub-Section 3 of the bill, “An attempt to commit any offence under this section shall be punishable in the same manner as the offence itself.”
Offences relating to registration of voters, including double registration, forgery and mutilation of registration documents attract a jail term of 12 months or a fine of N1m or both.
Similarly, anybody who forges a nomination paper or “signs a nomination paper consenting to be a candidate at an election, knowing that he is ineligible to be a candidate at that election, commits an offence.”
The bill adds, “A person who commits an offence under sub-section (1) of this section is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for two years.”
The bill further provides that “improper use of voter card” such as giving it to another person for proxy voting or selling or buying of the card attracts a jail term of 12 months or a fine of N1m or both.
Offences like “disorderly behaviour at political meetings” or being in possession of offensive weapons attract a fine of N500,000 “or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”
Section 10 of the bill prescribes penalties for the offence of “impersonation and voting when not qualified.”
Sub-section 10(1)(e-f) reads, “Any person who votes or attempts to vote at an election, knowing that he is not qualified to vote at the election or (f) induces or procures any other person to vote at an election, knowing that such a person is not qualified to vote, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment or both.”
Sub-section 10(2), adds “Any person, who commits the offence of impersonation or who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of that offence, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”
Offences like polling officers failing to discharge their duties, delivering false results, delaying voting and announcing false results attract a fine of N500,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment or both.
Sub-section 11(5) provides, “Any Returning Officer or Collation Officer, who delivers or causes to be delivered, a false certificate of return, knowing same to be false, commits an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum imprisonment for 3 years without an option of fine.”
Bribery or inducing voters with money attracts a penalty of N500,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment or both.
The bill provides that both the giver and the receiver of the money are liable.
On acts of violence or disorderly conduct on election day, the bill provides, “Any person who at an election, acts or incites others to act in a disorderly manner, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 “ or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”
Any act that results in injury to any person or losses or intimidating voters to vote against their wish, attracts a penalty of N1m or a jail term of 3 years.
The House also proposed special conventions where the presidential candidates of political parties would emerge to contest the country’s general elections.
A party also has the choice of either conducting “direct primaries” or “indirect primaries” to pick its presidential candidate.
The bill made a provision that for a political party to opt for the direct primaries, it “shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.”
The direct primary is similar to the present practice where party faithful gather at the same location, usually in Abuja, to pick their presidential candidate.
However, in the new alternative proposal by the House, a party adopting indirect primary to pick a presidential candidate must meet certain requirements.
The bill, when passed into law, shall empower the Electoral Offences Commission to fix the election expenses of all political parties.
No political party is expected to spend above the amount fixed by the commission on an election.
A political party that acts in violation of the law “is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1m and forfeiture to the Commission, of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the Commission.”
In addition, the commission is empowered to audit the books of a political party and have detailed information on all donors, including the sum donated to the party.
The bill bars political parties from accepting “anonymous” donations, while cash donations by any contributor shall not exceed N100,000, “unless the party can identify the source of the money or the other contribution to the commission.”
Furthermore, a political party that fails to disclose its finances or fails to submit accurate audit returns is liable.
“The court may impose a maximum penalty of N200,000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission,” the report added.