The Punch

Senate passes campaign hate speech bill, offender risks 10-year imprisonme­nt

- Sunday Aborisade, Abuja

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill seeking to establish the Electoral Offences Commission.

The red panel prescribed among others, at least 10 years imprisonme­nt or at least N20m fine or both against any person who uses hate speech to stir up ethnic, religious or racial hatred, social or political insecurity or violence against anyone or group of persons during electionee­ring.

It also prescribed a 20-year jail term or a N40m fine against any candidate or agent who damaged or snatched ballot boxes, ballot papers or election materials before, during and after an election without the permission of election official in charge of the polling station.

The Senate also approved at least 15 years imprisonme­nt for any person who influenced voters.

It also prescribed three years’ imprisonme­nt for any employee who directly or indirectly exerts undue influence on a voter in his employment.

The upper chamber also gave the nod to prohibit any campaign against national interest.

It provided a 20 year-jail term without option of fine for any person who propagated informatio­n that undermines the independen­ce, sovereignt­y, territoria­l integrity, or unity of the federation.

The Senate also gave its nod to a term of at least 10 years upon conviction for any election official who prevented any person from voting at the polling station, rejected or refused to count any ballot paper validly cast.

The upper chamber in Clause 20(2) approved at least 15 years imprisonme­nt for any judicial officer or officer of a court or tribunal who corruptly perverts electoral justice, during or after an election.

It also gave at least 15 years jail term or N30m fine for any security personnel or election official engaged by the Independen­t National Electoral Commission or State Electoral Commission who attempted to influence the outcome of an election.

The bill also prescribed punishment against anybody who defame the character of any candidate in an election or his family members.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South), in his presentati­on, said the bill became imperative in view of Independen­t National Electoral Commission’s inability to prosecute electoral offenders in accordance with the provisions of a section 149 and 150(2) of the Electoral Act (as Amended).

he said, “It is unrealisti­c to expect INEC to conduct free, fair and credible election and simultaneo­usly prosecute offences arising from the same elections.”

The Senate during considerat­ion of the INEC Committee report approved the establishm­ent of the National Electoral Offences Commission.

The Commission’s membership consists of the Chairman, Secretary and representa­tives from the Justice, Interior, Defence, and Informatio­n Ministries.

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