In the next 48 hours, Nigerians will be heading to the polls for the 2023 general elections to elect leaders in various capacities across the country.
Against this background, it’s critical that the electorate get to intimately understand the laws and what constitutes as electoral offences and how to avoid all that before, during and after the elections.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, anyone in breach of any of these provisions is liable to being arrested and charged to court and prosecuted by INEC after investigation by the relevant Security Agencies.
The offences and corresponding penalties are contained in the Commission’s Electoral Offences and Penalties published in February 2019.
These are some of the electoral offences prescribed by Nigerian Law as of December 31, 2018.
OFFENCE: Registering more than once, unlawful possession of a voter’s card, selling or buying of voters card
PENALTY: A fine not exceeding N100,000 or imprisonment for one year or both
OFFENCE: Giving false information in any application for registration as a voter
PENALTY: A fine not exceeding N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both
OFFENCE: Hindering another person from registering as a voter
PENALTY: A fine not exceeding N500,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.
OFFENCE: Impersonating a registration official, carrying out registration of persons illegally or forging a registration card
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N1,000,000 or 12 months imprisonment or to both.
(a) Forging a nomination paper or result form;
(b) Wilfully defacing or destroying a nomination paper or result form;
(c) Delivering to an electoral officer a forged nomination paper or result
(d) Signs a nomination paper or result form as a candidate in more than one constituency at the same election
PENALTY: Person who commits an offence under subsection (1) of this section is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for 2 years.
Ballot Papers and Ballot Boxes
a. Unlawful possession of a ballot paper
b. Illegal printing of ballot papers
c. Illegal production or importation of ballot boxes.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N50,000,000 or for a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years or both.
Disorderly Behaviour at Political Meetings
OFFENCE: To act in a disorderly manner or be in possession of offensive weapon of a political meeting
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both
Improper Use of Voter Card
OFFENCE: Unlawful giving of a voter’s card to some other person for use at an election other than, an officer appointed to do so; being in possession of more than one voters cards
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both
Improper Use of Vehicles
OFFENCE: Conveying any person to a registration office or to a polling unit by government vehicle or boat, except in respect of a person who is entitled to use such vehicle or boat
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000.00 or imprisonment for six months or both
Impersonation and Voting when not Qualified
OFFENCE: A person voting or attempting to vote at an election when he/she is not qualified, or inducing a person to vote at an election knowing that such person is not qualified.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
Dereliction of Duty/ False result
OFFENCE: A Polling Officer failing to report on time or to discharge his duties on an election day without lawful excuse
PENALTY: On conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
OFFENCE: Announces or publishing a false election result
PENALTY: 36 months imprisonment.
Announcing or Publishing A False Election Result
OFFENCE: Returning Officer or Collation Officer or person delivering a false certificate of return.
PENALTY: 3 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
Bribery and Conspiracy: Vote Buying
a. Paying money to any other person for bribery at any election. On conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
b. Receiving any money or gift, for voting or to refrain from voting at any election.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both
Requirement of Secrecy in Voting
a. Not maintaining the secrecy of voting at a polling unit.
b. Interfering with a voter casting his vote
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N100,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both.
Wrongful Voting and False Statements
a. Illegal voting at an election
b. Publishing any statement of the withdrawal of a candidate or about his personal character.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both.
Voting by Unregistered Persons
OFFENCE: To bring into a polling unit during an election a voter’s card issued to another person
PENALTY: A fine of N100,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both.
Disorderly Conducts at Elections
OFFENCE: Inciting others to act in a disorderly manner
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
Within a distance of 300 meters of a polling unit
a. Canvassing for votes, persuading any voter not to vote for any particular candidate or being in possession of any offensive weapon, wear or display any notice, symbol, photograph or party card
b. Using any vehicle bearing the colour or symbol of a political, loitering around a polling unit blaring siren.
PENALTY: A fine of N 100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 6 months.
OFFENCE: Snatching or destruction of any election material
PENALTY: 24 months imprisonment.
OFFENCE: Accepting money or any other inducement during an election.
PENALTY: A fine of N 100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
a. Threatening a person with violence or injury to compel that person to vote or refrain from voting
b. Preventing any political aspirant from free use of the media vehicles, mobilization of political support and campaign at an election;
PENALTY: A fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 3 years.
Campaign and Campaign Finance
OFFENCE: Unlawful possession of a weapon at a political rally or voting centre
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N2,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 2 years or both.
OFFENCE: Threatening any person with violence during any political campaign
PENALTY: In the case of an individual, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months. In case of a political party, a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N500,000 for any subsequent offence.
Campaigning in public earlier than 90 days before polling day or ending it less than 24 hours to the election.
A political party, advertising in a newspaper , radio or TV less than 24 hours before polling day
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000
Employing State apparatus including the media to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.
Unequal allocation of Media time among political parties or candidates
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 in the first instance and to a maximum fine of N1,000,000.00 for subsequent conviction.
OFFENCE: Broadcasting or publishing any material for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or a candidate during 24 hours immediately preceding or on polling day.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months and in case of a body corporate shall pay a maximum fine of N1,000,000
Offences relating to finances of a political party
OFFENCE: A Political Party possessing any fund outside or retaining funds or other asset remitted to it from outside Nigeria
PENALTY: Forfeiture of the funds or assets to the Commission and in addition may be liable to a fine of not less than N500,000.
Limitations on Election Expenses and Contribution to a Political Party
OFFENCE: A Presidential Candidate incurring more than N1,000,000,000 as election expenses.
PENALTY: Presidential election, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both
OFFENCE: A Governorship candidate incurring more than N200,000,000
PENALTY: Governorship election to a fine of N800.000 or imprisonment for a term of 9 months or both
OFFENCE: A Senatorial and House of Representatives candidates exceeding N40,000,000 and N20,000,000 respectively.
PENALTY: Senatorial election to a fine of N600,000 or imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both House of Representatives election to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 5 months or both;
OFFENCE: A candidate for State Assembly election spending more than N10,000,000.
PENALTY: State House of Assembly election to a fine of N300,000 or imprisonment for a term of 3 months or both;
OFFENCE: A candidate for Chairmanship of an Area Council incurring more than ten million naira N10,000,000
PENALTY: In the case of Chairmanship election, to a fine of N300,000 or imprisonment for a term of 3 months or both
OFFENCE: In the case of Councillorship election to an Area Council, exceeding more than the maximum of election expenses of one million naira N1,000,000
PENALTY: Councillorship election, to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of one month or both
OFFENCE: An individual or other entity donating more than N1,000,000 to any candidate.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 9 months or both.
Aiding a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election Imprisonment for a term of 10 years.
Refusal by a political party to submit its election expenses to INEC in a separate audited return within 6 months after an election
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N1,000,000 and in the case of failure to submit an accurate audited return within the stipulated period, the court may impose a maximum penalty of N200,000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission.
OFFENCE: A political party shall not incur election expenses beyond the limit stipulated in this Act. A political party which contravenes this subsection commits an offence and is liable on conviction.
PENALTY: A maximum fine of N1,000,000 and forfeiture to the Commission of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the Commission.