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Some Distinctive Features Of Nigeria's Electoral Act, 2022

posted 2 years ago

Before signing of the Electoral Act 2022 (the new Electoral Act) into law by the President of Nigeria on Friday 25th February, 2022, the Electoral Act of 2010 (the old Electoral Act) was the law regulating the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Before the new Electoral Act came into effect, there had been wide clamor for the amendment of the old Electoral Act in order to address some lacuna and lapses which has negatively affected the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

The new Electoral Act sheds more light on some of the grey areas which were not provided for in the old Electoral Act by making provisions for the neutrality and financial independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (“INEC“) amongst others. The new Electoral Act also made provisions which address some of the lapses in Nigeria’s elections. Indeed, the new Electoral Act is a major improvement from the old Electoral Act. 

The new Electoral Act gives more powers to INEC, reduce the room for electoral mischief, expand citizen participation and enable the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. Some of the improvements in the new Electoral Act are identified and discussed below.

Early release of election funds to INEC

Sections 3(3) of the new Electoral Act provide that all funding required for a general election should be released not later than 1 year before the general elections. A strict adherence to the provisions of the new Act will obviously help INEC to prepare well in advance as it would enable it plan and procure all election materials in advance.

Neutrality and credibility of INEC

Section 8(5) of the new Electoral Act makes it an offence for members of political parties who seek appointment with INEC or are being appointed to work in INEC, failing to disclose their membership, affiliation or connection with a political party to INEC. 

Early conduct of party primaries and submission of candidates list

Section 29 (1) of the new Electoral Act mandates political parties to submit the list of their candidates to INEC not later than 180 days before the election. The candidates must have won at lawful primaries carried out by their political party, not later than 180 days (6 months) before election.

Substitution of dead candidates

Section 34 of the new Electoral Act allows political parties to hold primary elections to replace a candidate who dies after the polls have begun but before the final results are announced and a winner is declared.

In the case of legislative elections, the election will be a re-run, and a bereaved political party can have a new primary within 14 days to nominate a new candidate.

Electronic voting and transmission

Section 47(2) of the new Act provides a legal basis for electronic accreditation of voters. The provision allows voters to be electronically accredited using Smart Card Readers or any other technical equipment determined by INEC.

Section 50 (2) of the Act allows INEC to determine the means of transmitting election results. In other words, INEC has the sole authority to decide whether election results are transmitted electronically or manually.

Over voting

Over voting occurs when the total number of accredited voters in a polling unit exceeds the number of votes cast in that polling unit. Section 51(2) of the new Electoral Act provides that the total number of accredited voters will become a deciding factor in the legality of an election. The provision permits the returning officer to cancel results where total votes cast exceed the number of accredited voters.

Persons with disability

As Sections 54 (2) of the new Electoral Act provides that INEC is required to ensure that persons with disabilities, special needs, and vulnerable people are assisted at polling places by providing appropriate means of communication, such as braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or, in appropriate cases, off-site voting.

Power to review results declared under duress

Section 65 (1) of the new Electoral Act gives INEC the power to review results declared under duress

Disqualification of political appointees

Section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act disqualifies political appointees from voting or being voted for when parties choose their candidates at their parties convention or congresses for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.

Early commencement of campaigns

According to Sections 94 of the new Electoral Act, political parties’ campaigns have been extended from 90 days as it was under the old Electoral Act to 150 days before the day of election and will elapse 24 hours before the day of election.

Conclusion

The new Electoral Act is a major leap in improving the electoral process and system in Nigeria. It would go a long way in deepening Nigeria’s democratic system and culture.  The 2023 general elections which is about a year from now would provide a litmus test on the efficiency or otherwise of the new Electoral Act. 

However, as good as the new Electoral Act may appear to be, it is my considered opinion that Section 84(12) of the Act violates the fundamental human rights of citizens enshrined in Sections 40 and 42 of the Constitution which gives citizens freedom of association and freedom from discrimination.

Section 84 (12) of the new Electoral Act discriminates against political appointees because it imposes additional requirements on them beyond the requirement already provided in the Constitution. Hence, the National Assembly should take immediate steps to amend the provisions of Sections 84 (12) of the Act which offends the provisions of the Constitution, the grundnorm in Nigeria.

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