Promoting Good Governance.

EKITI ELECTION: 12 months imprisonment or more — what the law says on vote buying

During and after the gubernatorial election held in Ekiti state on Saturday, which culminated in victory for APC candidate Kayode Fayemi, allegations and counter-allegations of vote trading are well reported in the media.

The two major contenders, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), were particularly discovered to have given money to voters  in order to secure enough thumb prints at the polls.

While many, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have decried the practice, the ideal legal consequences for engaging in such conduct has not been established — though mentions have been made of the Electoral Act of 2010.

According to a summary of electoral offences and penalties provided by INEC, the offences of bribing or receiving any money or gift for voting (or to refrain from voting) at any election are covered by Section 124 of the Electoral Act.

The section stipulates that whoever is found guilty “is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both”. The same punishment is also applicable to persons who aid or abet the commission of the offence, or who — or in fact whose agents — know about and consent to the commission of the offence.

In detail, the Act states:

(1) Any person who does any of the following:
(a) directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives, lends or agrees to give or lend, or offers any money or valuable consideration;
(b) directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, corruptly makes any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement to or for any person, in order to induce such person to procure or to endeavour to procure the return of any person as a member of a legislative house or to an elective office or the vote of any voter at any election;
(c) upon or in consequence of any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement corruptly
procures, or engages or promises or endeavours to procure, the return of any person as a member of a
legislative house or to an elective office or the vote of any voter at any election;
(d) advances or pays or causes to be paid any money to or for the use of any other person, with the intent that such money or any part thereof shall be expended in bribery at any election, or who knowingly pays or causes to be paid any money to any person in discharge or repayment of any money wholly or in part expended in bribery at any election;
(e) after any election directly, or indirectly, by himself, or by any other person on his behalf receives any money or valuable consideration on account of any person having voted or refrained from voting, or having induced any other person to vote or refrain from voting or having induced any candidate to refrain from canvassing for votes for himself at any such election,  commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
(2) A voter commits an offence of bribery where before or during an election directly or indirectly himself or by any other person on his behalf, receives, agrees or contracts for any money, gift, loan, or valuable consideration, office, place or employment, for himself, or for any other person, for voting or agreeing to vote or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting at any such election.
(3) Nothing in this section shall extend or apply to money paid or agreed to be paid for or on account of any lawful expenses bona fide incurred at or concerning any election.
(4) Any person who commits the offence of bribery is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
(5) Any person who conspires, aids or abets any other person to commit any of the offences under this part of this Act shall be guilty of the same offence and punishment thereto.
(6) For the purposes of this Act, a candidate shall be deemed to have committed an offence if it was
committed with his knowledge and consent or the knowledge and consent of a person who is acting
under the general or special authority of the candidate with reference to the election.

APC CHIEFTAIN ADMITS TO CRIME

During an interview on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, Ayo Arise, former senator and member of the APC admitted that his party gave out money in order to induce voters in the recently held governorship election. He said the only thing his party did not engage in was false propaganda.

“The PDP started buying votes two days before the election, they were sending money (to) every voter in Ekiti,” Arise narrated.

“You know he [Fayose] engaged in this photocopying of voters’ card, that we all cried out against it. Now, he sent money to all the voters, and they came to tell us that ‘these people, they have bought all the votes already’.

“And we said oh, what are we gonna do? If PDP is buying votes, and these people, they will now keep on asking you for money. So, as far as I am concerned, what happened in Ekiti is one of the challenges that we as Nigerians must find a solution for.

“Somebody started buying votes, you don’t expect me to sit back. If I know this guy has …[inaudible]  this election, so I should now say that those people requesting that ‘okay somebody has paid me N4000’, and we now say ‘okay, oh sorry, I don’t have money, and so please go and vote for him’, will that be an election?”

In justifying the party’s methods, Arise added: “We knew that Fayose was going to spend money … all these rich governors came and they brought tons of money. If we sat back, how do we explain to the people that the incumbent bought us out of the election.”

BOTH PARTIES: GUILTY AS CHARGED

Although Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP National Publicity Secretary who was with Arise on the television programme,  challenged him to provide evidence of his party sharing money to voters on the election day, there are strong reports the party did so prior to the day. The ICIR released video evidence on Saturday, showing that the party gave amounts ranging between N3000 and N5000 to voters at the government house and various wards.

Video evidence has likewise emerged establishing similar practices on the part of the APC. One footage released by the BBC seems to establish the bribing of voters with N4000 by the party. The ICIR also observed that agents of the ruling party rewarded voters financially at various polls after it was confirmed they voted for the APC’s candidate.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Tuesday, gave INEC a 14-day ultimatum to investigate allegations of vote buying by both parties during the election in the state.

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