By AHURAKA ISAH, Chibuzo Ukaibe, Ejike Ejike, SUNDAY ISUWA
All is not well among Nigerian politicians and their political parties as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) moves to enforce the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 on campaign spending.
Investigations conducted by LEADERSHIP showed that INEC has received reports from its state offices on politicians and political parties that breached the law during their campaign for the 2019 general elections.
The presidential and National Assembly polls were held on February 23 while the governorship and state legislatures’ elections followed suit on March 9 across the country. Credible INEC sources revealed that the commission has begun the compilation of the list of offenders from 10 state offices which have so far submitted their reports on the violation of the campaign spending limit.
Before the conduct of the 2019 general elections, INEC had pegged the maximum expenditure of presidential candidates at N1 billion while governorship candidates were to restrict their spending to N200 million. For senatorial and House of Representatives candidates, the commission fixed their campaign expenditures at N40 million and N20 million respectively, based on the provisions of Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
In the event of any violation of the law, the Electoral Act stipulates N1million fine or one-year jail term or both in the case of the presidential election. For the governorship race, offenders risk a fine of N800,000 or nine months’ jail term or both while in the Senate contest the punishment is a fine of N600,000 or six months’ jail term or both.
Members or candidates for the House of Representatives, who go against the law, face a fine of N500,000 or a jail term of five months or both while state Houses of Assembly contestants who also breached the law risk a fine of N300,000 or three months’ jail term or both. It was learnt that the state INEC offices which have submitted their reports to the commission’s headquarters listed the names of the politicians who exceeded the campaign spending limit.
Section 91 (12) provides that any accountant who falsifies, conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the breach of the provision of this section is liable upon conviction for imprisonment for a term of 10 years.
Similarly, Section 225 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes it compulsory for political parties to submit their statements of assets and liabilities at such times and in such manner as the commission may require.
Also, Sections 222 and 229 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provide the framework for the operations of political parties, with Sections 225 and 226 affirming the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to monitor, inquire into and assess campaign finances, and a party’s source of and management of funds. In fact, Section 228 expressly provides the sanctions for violation for party and campaign finances.
Specifically, Section 225 (1-6) give conditions and scrutiny of the sources of funds and expenses of political parties. Section 225 (3) (a) and (b) as well as 225 (4) forbid political parties from foreign funding of any kind. Section 226 (1-3) demands annual reports of account from political parties.
Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) caps spending limits as follows: Presidential election N1 billion, Governorship- N200 million, Senatorial – N40 million, House of Representatives candidate -N20 million, and House of Assembly – N10 million. Section 91 (9) says that an individual or other entity shall not donate more than N1 million to any candidate.
Section 92 (3) of this Electoral Act 2010 as amended also requires every political party to submit, six months after every election, an audited revenue and expenditure report of the party, failing which penalties are stipulated. The Electoral Act Amendment Bill which President Muhammadu Buhari has not assented, re-jigged election expenses for a presidential candidate to N5 billion and N1 billion for a governorship candidate.
It also pegged senatorial candidate’s expenses at N250 million, House of Representatives candidate -N100 million, State House of Assembly candidate N30 million, candidate for the chairmanship of Area Council at N30 million and a councillorship candidate at N5 million.
Official audit reports submitted to INEC after the 2015 elections revealed that the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spent a combined total of N7.7 billion on the general elections. The reports show that the PDP spent N2.9 billion while the APC spent N4.8 billion on the polls.
APC’s audit report was filed by Mai-Alheri and Co; while the PDP’s audit report was executed by Paul Akinade Adebimpe and Co. INEC chairman’s spokesman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, told LEADERSHIP yesterday that Section 86 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) is very clear on the powers of INEC to keep records of the activities of all registered political parties in the country.
Some politicians, who commented on the latest move by INEC, said that even though the law was clear on the matter, they were not comfortable with the commission’s position because elections in Nigeria are very expensive. Before the 2019 elections, INEC had engaged the services of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) among eight other organisations to track the campaign funds of all the parties and their candidates who participated in the polls.
The anti-graft agencies are to release their reports not later than three months after the completion of the 2019 general elections. INEC also drafted the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and four other organisations to collaborate with the anti-graft agencies to undertake a thorough job. During the inauguration of the Inter-Agency Campaign Finance Monitoring Group, INEC national commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Okosi-Simbina, said that the report of the 2019 campaign finance tracking would be released immediately after the general elections.
It was gathered that the campaign finance tracking team monitored adverts placed by politicians and political parties on newspapers, televisions, radios, billboards and other media of advertisement as well as vote-buying.
“We must see to the conclusion. Those who spent beyond what the legal framework provides for or spent outrageously will have themselves to blame,” Okosi-Simbina had said. Also, INEC assistant director, Campaign Finance Tracking Unit, Ishaq Garba Aliyu, had explained how the capacity of the commission’s members of staff was built for the purpose of tracking the campaign funds.
He said that separate tracking forms for candidates and their political parties were distributed, adding that monitoring ended on the day of the elections. Efforts to get details on the states where INEC had received reports on the violators of the law were unsuccessful.
INEC officials said that it was early to do so, adding that it could send a wrong signal. A senior INEC official simply said: “Before now, states always prepared their reports separately but things have changed because the team which worked on the 2019 campaign finance tracking want to release a single report. “The names are now being compiled and over 10 states have submitted their reports to the headquarters.
“Yes, the states are submitting their reports and over 10 have brought theirs to the Abuja office. The commission is working hard to ensure that violators of the Electoral Act face the full wrath of the law,” he said.
EFCC Keeps Mum
Meanwhile, the EFCC has refused to comment on whether it is investigating the campaign spending of the candidates and political parties in the last general elections EFCC spokesperson, Mr. Tony Orilade, did not respond to calls and messages sent to his mobile phone on the issue. So far, no politician has been arrested by the EFCC for violating campaign rules on spending. Ahead of the 2019 elections, the commission’s acting chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, said that the anti-graft agency was beaming its searchlight on campaign funds.
According to him, all bank transactions by the candidates and their political parties would be monitored and suspicious transactions investigated. Magu therefore cautioned politicians against reckless spending and bribery, noting that excessive use of money during elections leads to gross financial abuse and perversion of the electoral process and enthrone bad leadership which in turn leads to corruption and bad governance.
He had hinted that the EFCC would partner with INEC to address the rising cases of vote-buying and insisted that investigation of election financing, which started with the investigation of the 2015 election funding, was aimed at disinfecting the electoral process.
PDP Accuses INEC Of Replacing Servers Across States
Still on controversial INEC server for the 2019 elections, the PDP yesterday alleged that commission is replacing all the servers in its headquarters and offices in all the states of the federation and Abuja, in a bid to obliterate the actual presidential election results transmitted from the polling centres across the country.
The party claimed that it had been well briefed on how the INEC leadership and officials of the Buhari Presidency became jittery and resorted to “the desperate measure, after they realised that the servers have information of Atiku Abubakar’s victory at the election.” PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that INEC’s alleged act is “completely reprehensible and further exposes the culpability of INEC in the manipulation and rigging of the 2019 presidential election.”
Ologbondiyan in a statement he issued yesterday insisted on the forensic examination of all relevant documents and equipment used for the presidential election. He said: “Our party has details of how the INEC leadership and the Presidency agents procured and detailed computer experts to the commission’s offices to switch the servers, mutilate vital information in the system and attempt to erase all trace of transmitted results to the main server.
“Moreover, our party has been informed about how the INEC leadership, several weeks after the election, used some compromised officials of the commission to manipulate voter registers in some states by ticking the names of individuals who did not participate in the presidential election, as having voted.
This is with the view to using such to cover the fictitious results it wrote for the APC. “What INEC and the Buhari Presidency do not understand is that computer software and applications leave traces, signatures as well as footmark. Forensic investigation of the system will reveal the real votes transmitted from the polling centres, which show Atiku Abubakar as the winner of the election,” he added.
The party said it would continue to be at alert as “we stand with Nigerians to reclaim our stolen mandate at the tribunal and no amount of manipulations by INEC will detract from this national resolve.”
Politicians Constituted Greatest Menace In 2019 Elections – Report
Relatedly, a report has shown that the desperation by politicians and massive deployment of security operatives contributed largely to the lapses witnessed during the 2019 elections. The report released by a coalition of civil society groups, yesterday in Abuja faulted attempts by politicians to put the blame of the hitches during the elections solely on the doorsteps of INEC.
The report which was a summary of the 2019 general elections by a coalition of CSOs, led by the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) claimed that there was an institutional conspiracy by state actors to sabotage INEC’s preparations and processes. It identified vote-buying, violent attacks on perceived opponents, intimidation and abduction of INEC officials, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes and papers to burning up of INEC offices and electoral material as some of the ways the political class ruined the election.
It said: “The politicians, their agents and thugs constituted the greatest menace in the conduct of the 2019 general elections. From brazen acts of vote-buying, violent attacks on perceived opponents, intimidation and abduction of INEC officials, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes and papers to burning up of INEC offices and electoral materials in Plateau, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Benue and Abia States, the political parties and politicians showed their desperation for power.
“The resultant loss of life and property in such places as Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, Plateau and so on and the widespread violence that attended these were recorded by our observers as perpetrated by politicians and their political thugs,” the report said.