The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), says that it has begun to review a draft of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that will include stringent punishments for election violators.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Monday in Lagos while declaring open a retreat on the Review of the Electoral Legal Framework.
He said that the commission had in late 2019 received the draft of the Bill from the Senate Committee on INEC which had earlier been presented to the executive for assent before the 2019 general elections.
“In turn, the Commission shared the draft Bill internally with the National Commissioners, the Directors, the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and senior officials in the 36 states and the FCT.
“Listening to Nigerians, it is clear that a review of the Electoral Act and our electoral legal framework in general, must be anchored on curbing incidents of violence and sundry malpractices in the electoral process.
“It is also to ensure that violators of electoral laws are effectively sanctioned.
”It must deepen the deployment of technology in elections.
“It will also ensure inclusivity in the electoral process for marginalised segments of the society such as women, youths and persons living with disabilities.”
On the issue of security during elections, Yakubu said that the Amendment Bill had made an extensive provision for security of lives and property during elections.
It also would ensure that violators of electoral laws would face stiff penalties, he said.
“As long as violators of electoral laws are not penalised, we will continue to have issues with our elections.
“As part of the reforms of the key components of the Electoral Act, we will like to see the effective sanctions of those who violate electoral laws of this country.
“Any country that does not penalise offenders is doomed and we must find a way of penalising electoral offenders so that impunity can be at best reduced or even eliminated completely,” Yakubu said.
The INEC Director of Legal Services, Mrs Oluwatoyin Babalola, also said that the retreat would serve as the final stage in the commission’s efforts to harvest proposals for amendments to the Electoral Act 2010.
“The objective of the retreat is to provoke discussions to strengthen the processes and procedures for voter registration, the use of technology in elections, registration and regulation of political parties and election dispute adjudication.
“The expectations of this retreat are the harmonisation of all the proposals for amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 for presentation to the National Assembly,” she said.
In his address of welcome; the REC, INEC Lagos State, Mr Sam Olumekun, said that Lagos State had 6.5million registered voters, 8,462 polling units and 4,961 voting points during the last general elections.
“In the last general elections, we recorded 17 court cases made up of two governorship petitions, two senatorial cases, 11 House of Representatives and 2 House of Assembly cases.
“There is the need to have special courts for electoral offences.
“The establishment of special electoral offences courts with defined time frame for prosecution will ensure speedy administration of justice. In Lagos.
“We had a matter that lasted for eight years, ” he said. (NAN)