With about five weeks left until the 2023 presidential election, Citizen went through the Electoral Act and found some interesting things. The Act was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 25, 2022 — exactly one year before D-day. For Navigating Nigeria this week, we present some key things to know.

A party’s logo on the ballot paper can’t bear the portrait of a person, living or dead

For many voters, next month would be the first time they’d lay their eyes on a ballot paper. This sensitive election material contains a list of all the parties participating in the elections and their logos. In 2019, 73 parties participated, which of course made the ballot papers unusually long.

An interesting point to note is that the logos never bear the portraits of individuals, living or dead. The Electoral Act 2022 provides dos and don’ts on how parties should go about selecting their logos. See section 79, subsection 4c(vi).

Political parties are banned from receiving anonymous donations

As a way to audit and monitor campaign financing, political parties are banned from receiving anonymous donations. It’s not clear how enforceable this has been despite the Electoral Act’s provision.

Political parties aren’t allowed to use masquerades for their campaigns

Section 92 subsection 4 prohibits the use of masquerades during campaigns. Even though it can be said the law isn’t always followed, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has it clearly stated. 

It’s illegal to operate an army in support of any political candidate

INEC may need to step up to curb the excesses of political parties that flout its rules. Having an “army” — no matter the intention — goes against the Electoral Act, as can very clearly be seen in Section 92, subsection 5.

The penalties for taking part in any of the two acts above are a maximum fine of ₦1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months for candidates. For a political party, a fine of ₦2,000,000 in the first instance and ₦1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.

Party agents can have original copies of ballot papers for inspection on election day

Election materials like the ballot paper and smart card reader are sensitive. Ordinarily, you wouldn’t be able to touch them until you’re about to vote. However, a particular class of people (outside electoral officers) are exempted. These include accredited election observers and party agents. These agents are those selected by the respective parties and approved by INEC to monitor proceedings at various wards. This can only happen before polls officially begin.

If you mark your ballot paper, it’ll be rejected

Your finger will be marked with indelible ink before you cast your vote. The ballot paper isn’t classwork that you’re marking. Only a fingerprint is recognised. Anything else will be rejected when votes are counted. 

Polling agents can challenge your right to vote

As mentioned earlier, polling agents will be at polling units to monitor how elections are conducted. Polling agents can flag you as suspicious if they have any reason to believe you’re ineligible, maybe because you’re underage or impersonating someone. 

If that happens, that’s wahala for you, and you could get arrested.

At the close of ballot, votes can be recounted but only once

After polls have closed, the presiding officer counts the ballot. If there are any objections, a party agent could ask for a recount but only once.

There are other interesting provisions covered in the Electoral Act. If you want to know more about the regulations guiding the conduct of Nigerian elections, click here to download the Electoral Act.

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