The Senate on Tuesday passed the bill establishing the Electoral Offences Commission and has recommended a 20-year jail term for ballot-snatching.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, said the bill sought for the establishment of the commission and to make adequate deterrence and sanctions for undemocratic forces in Nigeria’s electoral environment.
“It is also a decisive deterrence through efficient criminal prosecutions in the strategy for defecting electoral offenders.
“To this end, section 149 and 150 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) respectively vests INEC with the discretion and powers to prosecute alleged electoral offenders,” he said.
Gaya noted that the approval of the commission followed the consideration of the report of the senate committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said since the advent of democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic in 1999, there was hardly any election that electoral offenses had not occurred.
“Successive elections at the national, states and local government levels have been marred by irregularities, with political players resorting to violence to outsmart each other to achieve victory.
“No doubt, electoral offences remain a significant threat to credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria, where elections heighten political tension and trigger violence,” he said.
He explained that the challenges facing INEC in the electoral process did not permit it to face another battle of prosecution of electoral offenders.
Gaya said: “This accounts for just a few convictions for electoral offences in the realm of criminal litigation in Nigeria.
“The above underscores the necessity of an active justice system for the prosecution of electoral offenders, which remains critical in ensuring a decrease in the level of electoral impunity and a reversal in the persistent trend of electoral offences”
Gaya explained that the commission will be charged with investigating electoral offences and prosecution of electoral offenders in Nigeria.
The Senator said that the commission would help strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process and ensure credible elections.
Commenting on the bill, Senate President Ahmad Lawan described the passage of the bill as another landmark legislation.
He said: “This is yet another landmark legislation that this Senate has been able to pass, break the jinx, and the demons are defeated too here.
“This is one sure way of keeping offenders responsible and accountable for their actions.
“We believe that this will sanitise our electoral system and process and we believe that INEC and States Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) will be able to conduct their elections free of violence.”