In a bid to finalise modalities that could put an end to money politics in Nigeria, federal government is currently on the verge of deploying no less than 17,000 special operatives to monitor the movement of funds as a way of tracking sources of political campaign funds and vote-buying ahead of next year’s general elections.
In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA examines the new narrative as the 2019 elections approach.
Checking corruption At the Prof Epiphany Azinge’s colloquium recently, with the theme: “Anti-Corruption Project: Enforcement of Ceiling on Political Campaign Expenditure,” a renowned legal luminary, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, a speaker at the event, declared that INEC lacked the technical manpower to monitor and track the spending of huge funds by political parties and their candidates.
He, therefore, advocated for the creation of a separate agency from the electoral umpire that would monitor campaign financing with a view to bringing violators of the Electoral Act to book.
Awomolo was quoted as having said that “even if INEC has the will to monitor election expenses of political parties, it still lacks the capacity to do so.” However, Prof.
ABC Nwosu, chairman of the event, believes that INEC can measure campaign expenditures through amounts spent on adverts at rime time and spectacular billboards which alone always exceed the stipulated limits.
Nwosu lamented that the toxic influence of money on the nation’s electoral process was hindering patriotic Nigerians from participating in elections.
“Not talking of political rallies where over 20 buses would be hired.
All it required is courage on the part of INEC to establish a unit.
Onus is on parties to show why,” he said.
He also mentioned nomination fees where a governorship aspirant obtains form for N20 million, wondering where a candidate will find the money without resorting to godfathers.
Mr. Eze Oyekrere, an activist, said that donations to candidates should be taxed, noting however that majority of agencies that should track campaign funds are working at cross purposes.
“We need a new agency to oversight campaign financing or strengthen INEC,” he said.
On his part, J.K.
Gadzama referred to the1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2010 which restricted political parties from spending large sums of money as campaign expenditure, arguing that such laws can only work if they can be enforced.
“In the first republic, political party campaign funds were contributed by friends.
Many politicians who used their position to subvert people’s will were jailed for reckless spending.
“During the 2015 general elections, the major political parties raised funds for campaigns and companies donated billions of Naira but the identities of these c o m p a n i e s were shielded from the public.
No political party was sanctioned.
This raised questions on whether or not INEC monitored and recorded campaign expenses to invoke Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010,” In his submission, JK Gadzama said “If Obama had contested election in Nigeria, he might, most probably, have lost because he did not have money as his opponents.” Meanwhile, stakeholders have observed that globally, different countries have limited the expenditure and categories of people that can contribute to campaign expenditure.
Canada and the USA according to them prohibit donations from outside their countries.
Ekiti election as acid test Whilst pundits and keen followers of political happenings were hopeful that curtailing unnecessary and illegal funds may be achieved as we dispensed democracy, they nevertheless feared that the outcome of Ekiti election in terms of monitoring and success of the exercise could make or mar Nigerians faith in the new proposal.
Blueprint Weekend recalls that EFCC, the dreaded anti-graft agency has promised to monitor the movement of money for the Ekiti governorship election which holds on July 14.
In actualising its mission, the EFCC chairman has already met with chief compliance officers of banks.
At the meeting which held on May 30, the EFCC chairman mandated banks to report all suspicious transactions ahead of the election, threatening to prosecute any bank that fails to cooperate.
Magu’s warning, it was learnt, was sequel to a plea by the Independent National Electoral Commission that the EFCC should help in tackling vote-buying at polling units.
An EFCC source was quoted as having said: “We have set up teams that will be relating with compliance officers of all banks.
We will monitor them and if we discover that banks are colluding with unscrupulous individuals, we will prosecute them.
“Any bank that doesn’t disclose suspicious transactions would be prosecuted.” The source explained that monies used in bribing INEC officials during the 2015 elections emanated from banks and were routed through bank chiefs.” CSOs, PACAC, political parties react Meanwhile, some civil society groups have continue to react to the development, saying although the initiative by the EFCC was laudable, it could be used as an instrument to fight opposition parties.
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Mr.
Bako Usman, said although it was a necessary move by the EFCC, it could create suspicion in some quarters, especially due to the closeness of the 2019 elections.
He said “it’s a policy that could have been put in place earlier by this administration, because doing so at this time will make some people think it is targeted at the opposition.” Similarly, the Executive Chairman, Centre for AntiCorruption and Open Leadership, Mr.
Debo Adeniran, described it as “laudable,” saying that it would help to check illicit financial flow in the country.
Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof.
Itse Sagay (SAN), had penultimate weeks described the EFCC move as laudable but difficult task, arguing that most times, corrupt politicians use proxies to move cash and in the process, circumvent the law.
“It is a very difficult task.
I don’t know if we have enough forensic equipment and training to be able to monitor the spending because the candidate does not have to spend it himself.
If he gets the money through an illegitimate source, he would not spend it himself but give the money to various people that would do the spending.” Reacting to the development, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said EFCC would be committing “illegality” if it usurps the role of INEC, whose responsibility it is to monitor the expenditure of political parties.
“The EFCC doesn’t have such power to monitor how political parties spend their money.
Such power is vested in INEC and the commission oesn’t have the power to delegate the functions given to it by law.” Ologbondiyan said the electoral body had written to all political parties, asking them to furnish it with their 2015 financial records.
The EFCC has no such power.
“How can they be monitoring political parties’ convention? Does the law give them such power? They can’t hide under the alleged directive by INEC to commit illegality,” he said.
However, the ruling APC has welcomed the decision of the EFCC, stating that it is one of the ways of fulfilling the federal government’s resolve in fighting corruption.
The APC Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, noted nevertheless that the decision by the EFCC must be covered by the law.
“It is a welcome development.
We are a government that came to power on the strength of commitment to fight corruption.
We welcome it as long as what the EFCC wants to do is within the ambit of the law and we are fully in support of such a move,” he said.
Also, the spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alfa Mohammed, has praised the EFCC for its bold move to probe election funding, he went on to advise the Commission to monitor the APC, which is the ruling party, very closely because of its access to government funds.
“If any party needs to be monitored, it should first be the APC and then the Peoples Democratic Party, which was in power before.
We support proper monitoring of election spending.
We pray the EFCC will have the courage to bring to book any of the parties that are found culpable, particularly the APC,” he said.
Electoral Bill and attendant controversy Meanwhile, ahead the 2019 general elections, the National Assembly has transmitted the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed by both chambers last month to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
The amendment Bill, if signed into law by President Buhari, will be known as 2018 Electoral Act, provisions of which will serve as guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 general elections by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Blueprint Weekend recalls that the submission was coming three months after President Buhari rejected the earlier one forwarded to him for assent.
President Buhari had in vetoing the earlier one sent to him in February, this year, cited three reasons for doing so, one of which was the new sequence of elections included in the Bill through Section 25(1).
The President, in his rejection, said the inserted section in the Electoral Act violates the provisions of Section 72 of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers INEC to fix dates of elections and see to its conduct in all ramifications.
Stakeholders’ in the nation’s polity believes that the proposed Electoral Act if implemented would address numerous lacunae which had hitherto posed as cog in the nation’s electoral processes