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Notes on electoral offences in Electoral Act, 2022



LAWS provide order and regulate all aspects of human lives. The electoral process is no exception. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Electoral Act 2022, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Rules and Regulations constitute the legal framework which regulate the electoral process. Provisions of these deal with the right to associate, voters’ rights, right to form political parties, registration of voters, Election Day procedures, dispute resolution mechanism, etc.

Journalists were part of seminar participants on election coverage recently held in Jos

The Electoral Act, 2022 like the previous Electoral Acts does not define electoral offences. However, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, sixth edition, defines “Offence” as ‘an illegal act or a crime’ and equally defines crime as ‘activity that involves breaking the Law’ or illegal act or activity that can be punished by law. Any conduct, action or inaction which is prohibited by the Electoral Act and a breach of which attracts punishment, is called an electoral offence. Examples of such offences are Impersonation and voting when not qualified, Disorderly conducts at Elections, Snatching and destroying of election materials on Election Day; and Dereliction of duty by Electoral officials.

The perpetrators of these offences, through acts of commission and/or omission have been, unfortunately, all critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Over the years, electoral offences have been committed by Electoral Officers and staff of electoral commissions, Security personnel, Political Parties and their officials, Candidates, Election Observers, Journalists/Media Houses, voters and the general public.


Whilst the Criminal and Penal codes may take precedents over most of criminal offences across the country, sections 114 to 129 of the Electoral Act, 2022 provide for what constitute the gamut of electoral offences in the country. They include offences relating to registration, the nomination of candidates, disorderly behaviour at political meetings, improper use of voter cards, improper use of vehicles, impersonation, voting when not qualified, dereliction of duty by electoral officers or polling agents of political parties, bribery and conspiracy and violation of the requirement for secrecy in voting.

These offences and punishments are captured thus:

Sections 114 (Offences in relation to registration); 115 (Offences in Relation to Nomination); 116 (Disorderly Behaviour at Political Meetings); 117 ( Improper Use of Voters Cards); 118 (Improper Use of Vehicles); 119 ( Impersonation and Voting when not Qualified); 120 (Dereliction of Duty); 121 (bribery and conspiracy); 122 (requirement of secrecy in voting); 123 (Wrongful Voting and False Statements); 124 (Voting by Unregistered Person); 125 ( Disorderly Conduct at Elections); 126 (Offences on Election Day); 127 (Undue Influence); and 128 (Threatening Violence). The offences carry prison terms of 1million naira or 2 years in prison; or 500, 000.00 (five hundred thousand naira) or one year while some carry prison term of 6 months or 200, 000.00 (two hundred thousand naira) or even 100, 000.00 (one hundred thousand naira) depending on the nature. An interesting provision worthy of note is section 126 (4) which pins a prison term of 24 months for any person who tampers with electoral materials or devices. There is no provision for an option of fine if this offence is committed. It provides viz:

(4) Any person who snatches or destroys any election material or any election device, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 24 months.

This is intended to serve as a deterrent to ballot box snatchers or those who violently snatch and destroy electoral materials during elections. Similarly, section 121 (6) provides thus:

(6) For the purpose of this Act, a candidate shall be deemed to have committed an offence if it was committed with his or her knowledge and consent.

The clear and apparent consequence is that if a candidate for an election sponsors a person who commits an offence such as bribery or undue influence or violence, the candidate will be legally responsible and liable.

Correspondingly, it is also noteworthy to highlight offences that pertain to political party campaigns as well as media coverage even though they are not captured under the sections of electoral offences by the drafters of the Electoral Act. It may be easy to miss them out yet breaches of these provisions carry severe penalties and sentence upon conviction. Section 78 (contravention of section 227 of the 1999 Constitution – Section 227 of the 1999 Constitution is on the prohibition of quasi-military organisations); section 85 (offences in relation to finance of a political party); section 83 (monitoring of political parties); sections 86 and 87 (annual statements and remittance of contributions); sections 88 and 89 (limitation on election expenses); section 92 (prohibition of certain conduct at political campaigns);

It is important to copiously reproduce section 92(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, for its significance to campaigns and media coverage in view of the milieu and recent turn events across the country. It read thus:

A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.

(2) Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.

(3) Places designated for religious worship, police station, and public offices shall not be used

(a) for political campaigns, rallies and processions; or

(b) to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates or their programmes or ideologies.

(4) Masquerades shall not be employed or used by any political party, aspirant or candidate during political campaigns or for any other political purpose.

(5) A political party, aspirant or candidate of a political party shall not retain, organise, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interests, or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organised, trained or equipped for that purpose.

(6) A political party, aspirant or candidate shall not keep or use armed private security organisation, vanguard or any other group or individual by whatever name called for the purpose of providing security, assisting or aiding the political party or candidate in whatever manner during campaigns, rallies, processions or elections.

(7) A political party, aspirant or candidate who contravenes any of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction –

(a)  in the case of an aspirant or candidate, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months; and

(b)  in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.

(8) Any person or group of persons who aids or abets a political party, an aspirant or a candidate in contravening the provisions of subsection (5), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.

Others are section 93 (prohibition of the use of force or violence during campaign); section 94 (limitation on political broadcast and campaign by political parties); section 96 (prohibition of broadcast, 24 hours proceeding or on polling date); section 95 (campaign for election); it reads thus:

95 (1) A candidate and his or her party shall campaign for the elections in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be determined by the Commission.

(2) State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.

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