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Senate passes campaign hate speech bill, violator risks 10-year jail term

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Senate passes campaign hate speech bill, violator risks 10-year jail term

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The Senate, on Tuesday, passed a bill which seeks to establish the Electoral Offences Commission.

The red panel agreed among others, at least 10 years jail term or at least N20m fine or both against any individual who uses hate speech to stir up ethnic, religious or racial hatred, social or political insecurity or violence against anybody or group of people during campaigning.

It also approved a 20-year imprisonment or a N40m fine against any candidate or agent who destroyed or snatched ballot boxes, ballot papers or election materials before, during and after an election without the consent of election official in charge of the polling station.

The Senate also prescribed at least 15 years jail term for any individual who influenced voters.

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

The upper chamber also agreed to disallow any campaign against national interest.

It approved a 20 year imprisonment without option of fine for any individual who spread information that destabilises the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, or unity of the federation.

The Senate also approved at least 10 years jail term upon conviction for any election official who prevented any individual from voting at the polling station, rejected or refused to count any ballot paper validly cast.

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

It also agreed at least 15 years jail term or N30m fine for any security official or election personnel engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or State Electoral Commission who tried to influence election result.

The bill also approved punishment against anyone who slanders 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 vital in view of INEC’s inability to prosecute electoral offenders in line 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, after deliberating on the INEC Committee report approved the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission.

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


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