Sam Okolie

One of the challenges of a democratic government is, making sure that even in the midst of emergencies and passion we make sure that the rule of Law and the basic precept of justice and liberty prevails. This immortal and sempiternal words of Barrack Obama recently came to fore in Nigeria’s political firmament, when during an All progressive Congress (APC) caucus meeting, president Buhari stated that “Anybody who decided to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disturb it (elections), maybe that would be the last unlawful action he would take, I really gave the military and the police order to be ruthless”.

The president further state the “ I am going to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch boxes or to disturb the voting system, he would do so at the expense of his life. The president has by that comment fully endorsed jungle justice and mutilate the 1999 constitution which he swore on oath to protect. It should be pointed out that, no matter how attractive and instantaneous mob justice or jungle justice is, it is no justice at all, but travesty of justice, since it does not guarantee fairness to anyone, our Laws, particularly section 36 (5) of the 1999 constitution provide for presumption of innocence for anyone who is alleged to have committed an offence, and the only institution created by the constitution to determined the guilt or otherwise of a person or organization is the court as provided for by section 6 of the 1999 constitution.

The constitution which is the supreme Law of the land has created the different arms of government and has given each arm, its powers and duties, and no arm can usurp the powers and duties of the other arm of government. The statement made by the president has shown that he has usurp the powers of the other arm of government which is abhorrent and odious to the rule of Law. Tom Bingham put it more poignantly, when he state that we need leaders who better understand the rule of Law. Actions that constitute electoral crime and the concomitant and accompanying punishment will be discussed anon, as provided for under part vii of the electoral Act as amended in 2010.

SNATCHING OR DESTRUCTION OF ELECTORAL MATERIALS

Section 129 (4) of the electoral Act provide that any person who snatches or destroys any election materials commit an offence and is liable on conviction to 24 months imprisonment. Thus the death order made by the president is completely illegal, as the president does not have the power to make such order.

DISORDERLY CONDUCT OF ELECTION

Section 128 of the Act provides that any person who at an election act or incite other to act in a disorderly manner commits and offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of 500 or imprisonment of a term of 12months or both.

THREATENING OF VIOLENCE

Section 131 provide that any, person who directly or indirectly by himself or by another person on his behalf make use of or threaten to make use of any force, violence or inflicts or threaten to inflict by himself or by any other person, any minor or serious injury, damage, harm or Loss on or against a person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting on condition to a fine of 100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 3 years

UNDUE INFLUENCE

Section 130 provide that any person who; (a) Corruptly by himself or by any other person anytime after the date of election has been announced, directly or indirectly given or provides money or for any person for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting at such election (b) been or voter corruptly accept or take money or any other inducement is guilty of an of an offence and is liable an conviction to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12months or both.

DERELICTION OF DUTY

This is provided for in section 123 of the Act. This section basically deals with offences committed by electoral officers who are saddle with the responsibility of conducting election section. 123 (4) provide that any person who announces orp published an election result knowing same to be false or which is at variance with signed certificate of return commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 36 month imprisonment, similarly section 123 (5) state that any returning officer or collation officer who delivers or causes to be delivered a false certificate of return know by same to be false, committed an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum imprisonment for 3 years without an option of fine for 3 years without an option of fine.

Similarly section 123(6) state that any polling officer who fails to discharge his Lawful duties at his polling unit without Lawful excuse commits an offence of dereliction of duties and is Liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12month imprisonment or both similar punishment await a polling officer who fail or report promptly at his polling unit without Lawful exercise.

IMPERSONATION AND VOTING WHEN NOT QUALIFIED

This section refers to under age voters and people who employs underage voters to vote in an election. Section 122 (1) (e) state particularly that any person who vote or attempt to vote in an election knowing that he is not qualified to vote at the election or (f) induces or procures any other person to vote in an election knowing that the person is not qualified to vote at the election commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12months or both.

CONCLUSION

From the totality of the above, it is sure that the electoral act and the attendant punishment does not provide for death penalty, hence that order of the president is non sequitor and palpable illegal. Imram Khan once said that the that Lack of rule of Law is the main reason Pakistan could not join the rank of progressive nation. Hence, if Nigeria is to aim to be a progressive nation they must obey the rule of Law.

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