Acting Chairman, Justice, Development and Peace Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese, Mr. Joe Abaagu, has cautioned youths in the country against electoral violence, saying anyone caught would go to jail for two years without option of fine.
Abaagu gave the advice in an interview on Wednesday in Abuja.
The legal practitioner said that the new Electoral Act has very strong provisions to tackle electoral violence, snatching of ballot boxes and destruction of election materials.
“The current electoral act is very harsh on electoral violence. For instance section 116 of the Act which deals with disorderly behaviour at political meetings punishes anybody who goes to disrupt a meeting with the punishment of either N500,000 as fine or 12 months imprisonment.
“This is quite stiff compared with previous legislations. Similarly, Section 125 of the Electoral Act also deals with disorderly conduct at elections and also punishes with the same amount of N500,000 or 12 months in prison.
“Section 126 which deals with offenses on election day and especially Subsection 4 which deals with snatching or destroying electoral materials, punishes an offender with 24 months imprisonment without option of fine. You will go straight to jail and your future will be destroyed,” he added.
He therefore, said the youths should not allow themselves to be used negatively by politicians during the 2023 elections.
He said they should rather demand from the politicians, details of how they intend to tackle the myriad of issues affecting the country.
“My advice to the youths is to beware; politicians who love them will be finding solutions to their joblessness, their problems, seek permanent solutions to endless ASUU strike so that they can resume school and continue their education.
“Politicians who love them would seek their quality education at all levels starting from the foundational levels all the way to the tertiary level.
“Politicians who love them would be looking for things that will make them grow to be very useful and responsible citizens of the country,” he added.
He, therefore, urged the youths not to waste their future on politicians who do not have anything valuable to add to their lives and the nation.
Abaagu said the youths should embrace the purpose of good governance and peaceful election.
“You should demand from politicians to use their own children or their own wards as political thugs if they are in need of thuggery, rather than children who are poor in our society,” the lawyer said.
To the politicians, Abaagu said they should campaign on issues affecting the country rather than try to exploit the nation’s fault lines for their selfish interests.
“There are a lot of issues that we hope politicians will use in campaigning this time around. There are issues of poverty, there are issues of our economy, there are issues of violence, there are issues of insecurity, there are so many things that the politicians can use in campaigning.
“The citizens would welcome campaigns, based on issues, rather than hate speeches and campaign of calumny and derogation, and campaign seeking to divide the country on our fault lines of ethnicity, religion and the like,” he said.
According to him, only politicians who lack issues to campaign on that go to these fault lines and begin to use them to malign the opponent.
“This is where they bring in youth to fan embers of hatred, disunity and discord in the polity and making the youths become fawns for easy use on the chess board of politicians,” Abaagu said.