As part of its efforts to tackle cases of election malpractice and fraud, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has proposed punishment for individuals or groups caught in the act of vote buying or selling during elections: a fine of N500,000 or three years imprisonment, or both.
Backstory: The proposal was made when INEC Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, represented the Commission’s head, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at the 9th Forum of Anti-Corruption Situation Room, organized by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), in Abuja.
Here’s what he said:
- “The National Assembly should isolate vote-buying and selling and properly define it. It varies 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.”
Why it matters: While the last elections was marred by violence and voter suppression, another major issue was the high rate of vote buying and selling that was recorded, with most of the culprits publicly partaking in the act. A law specifically targeted at vote buying and selling could go some way in solving the problem.
But... The important issue is the implementation, and doing it without favoritism.