The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has proposed a fine of N500, 000 or three years imprisonment, or both, for persons convicted of vote-buying and selling in the country.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, at the Ninth Forum of the Anti-Corruption Situation Room, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).
Yakubu, who was represented at the event by the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye , said vote-buying and selling during elections in the country, has become a huge source of worry for the electoral umpire, as well as the international community.
He said although the Commission has taken several steps to curb the incidence of vote merchandizing, it is imperative for the National Assembly to more legislative actions to tackle the menace.
The INEC boss also tasked the National Assembly to accelerate work on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill. He explained that that way, there would be a separate agency saddled with the investigation and prosecution of electoral offences and offenders.
“The National Assembly should isolate vote-buying and selling and properly define it. It varieties in ingredients and (they should) make it a separate item in the Electoral Act and provide sanction for violation. The punishment for vote-buying should be increased and made stiffer to act as deterrent to buyers and sellers. Those who commit the offence of buying and selling should be made to pay a fine of N500,000 or be subjected to three years imprisonment, or both.
“Restriction on the use of smart phones in polling units should be put into the Electoral Act and violators should be liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or three years imprisonment or both.”
Speaking at the event, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said candidates indicted for electoral offences by election petition tribunals, should not be allowed to take part in rerun election, where the polls are nullified.
Falana, who chaired the event, noted that allowing those indicted for electoral offences to participate in rerun polls is tantamount to rewarding criminality.
“Where people are indicted for committing electoral offences, if you are going to have a rerun, it is inequitable to allow such persons contest the election; that is like rewarding criminality. All the governors who were indicted in elections in the past were allowed to take part in the rerun election. In our laws, you are prohibited from benefitting from fraud. We should take that to the election petition tribunals,” he stated