Democracy has been defined by Abraham Lincoln as:
‘A government of the people, for the people and by the people.’
As 2023 Elections draw near, we are once again reminded by recent events that our attempt at Democracy can be seen is almost as good as none existent. The faith Nigerian citizens once had in their government has been dashed by one tragedy after the other. In an election which many Nigerians believe to be the freest and fairest Nigeria ever had was won by M. K. O. Abiola who won by a landslide but was unfortunately denied his mandate and later died, suspected to have been killed, while in prison.
Few months ago, we all read, watched, heard the news that our President, M. Buhari, had declared the 12th of June, to be recognized as the day Nigerians all over the world, celebrate our Democracy, instead of the day the actual document was signed, to serve as a reminder of the day Nigerians experienced true Democracy.
As Elections draw near, it is necessary for us to know and understand the laws regarding Elections in Nigeria and measures the Nigerian government has put in place to ensure it is both free and fair.
- ELECTION (REGISTRATION, ETC. OF VOTERS) ACT CAP 35, 1991
- ELECTORAL ACT
- THE ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT BILL, 2018
- ELECTION (REGISTERATION, ETC. OF VOTERS) ACT
Section 1 subsection 7 – 10, Section 2, Section 8, Section 13 of the ELECTION (REGISTRATION, ETC. OF VOTERS) ACT Empowers every constituency under INEC;
- To display the preliminary list of registered voters in that constituency.
- To revise the list of registered voters in each constituency and to invite people whose names and addresses are not displayed in the list to ensure it is.
- To give anyone whose name has been omitted or incorrectly stated, to lay a formal complaint within 12 days of the display.
- Inspection of the Register of Voters is free and will be made public for viewing during normal office hours.
- Section 18 of the same Act, lists out acts that would constitute an offense;
- Any person who gives his/her voters cards to a person who is not a Registration Officer or is not an officer but receives the voters card of another or
- Without lawful excuse, is in possession of more than one voters card will be liable to an imprisonment term of 2 years or to a fine of 5,000 Naira or both.
Also, under the same section, a Registration Officer who;
Registers any person by proxy
- Issues more than one registration card
- Issues registration card to a political party or
- Includes a person’s name more than once in a particular unit
Is guilty of an offense and liable to an imprisonment term of 5 years or a fine of 10,000 or both.
2. THE ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL, 2018
THE ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT BILL, 2018 seeks to effect changes to the ELECTORAL ACT. Some of these changes include;
- Provision for maintaining a Register of Voters and Voters Register in an electronic form in the INEC database.
- Issuance of Replacement Permanent Voters Card where the official is satisfied of the loss, destruction, defacement or damage of the voters card.
- Disqualification of a Candidate/ Political Party on the determination that any of the information contained in his/her affidavit is false.
- Presiding officer must open the empty ballot box and show same to persons lawfully present at the polling unit and then seal the boxes to prevent them from being opened by unauthorized persons at the opening of the poll and before accreditation and voting.
- A person must present himself with his voter’s card to a Presiding officer for accreditation at the polling unit where his name is registered.
Any person or political party is allowed to obtain a certified true copy of an election result that is stored in the National Electronic Register in a State, Local Government, Area Council, Ward our Polling Unit.
Evidently, the new date chosen as Democracy day did not magically grant us the right to enjoy that Democracy we desire and cherish. How then do we achieve this dream of true Democracy? We, the people of Nigeria are the government. We are the law. We are the democracy we seek. If it has been achieved before, it can be achieved again. In order to do this, the first step towards that is to know and understand the laws put in place to ensure free and fair election, obtain our voters card, coming out en masse to vote for our desired candidate and ultimately hold our leaders accountable for whatever wrong they commit.