The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will beam its searchlight on politicians and political parties to track the sources of funds for their campaigns.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the plan public at a conference on political campaign finance organised by The Electoral Forum in Abuja on Friday.
According to Yakubu, the commission will set up teams to monitor election spending ahead of the polls.
Represented by Prof. Ajayi Kunle, who is INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of the Party Monitoring Committee, the INEC boss said the electoral empire would also monitor the movement of money on election days to tackle vote-buying at polling units.
Yakubu, who said that with the assistance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), commercial banks would be mandated to report all suspicious transactions ahead of the election, threatened to prosecute any bank that failed to cooperate.
When asked about the legal implications of the move, the INEC boss explained that the Electoral Act and the Constitution empower INEC to make any other regulations that will assist its efficiency.
“As long as we have not notified anybody that the race to the 2023 general election has started, we are not unaware of what anybody is doing. We follow the law strictly.
“We have not officially declared a notice for the 2023 general elections, but when we so declare, we will put our monitoring committees to motion like the Central Bank, Department of State Services (DSS), EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the (commercial) banks and other law enforcement agencies. We have that plan already.
“Every candidate must be made to declare his bank asset. That is where they draw out their money, so we will make them present their statement of account right from the onset. We will make it mandatory for them to turn in their bank statement so that if they say they are doing billboard and the account remains the same, then, there is a problem,” Yakubu said.
On the issue of vote-buying, the INEC chairman said: “We are going to establish finance monitoring teams and they will be among the electorate but they (politicians and political parties) won’t know. We are going to do it in a way that the influence of money will be reduced because we want to make the electoral field a level playing ground for both rich and poor candidates and the electorate. Everybody will go on an equal economic level so that you won’t influence the voting pattern”.
Chairman of the Electoral Forum, Prof. Bayo Olukoshi, lamented the low implementation of the law on campaign financing, urging that the Electoral Act be amended to strengthen the monitoring mechanism.
Immediate past Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, identified lack of accountability and transparency in political campaign financing as key factors responsible for some challenges facing Nigeria’s electoral system.
“If we insist on accountability, then you can begin to somehow sanitise the way political parties raise funds. I think what has happened is that we paid too much attention to the issue of electronic transmission of results, and somehow they quickly passed the sections about raising the threshold. The civil societies did not pay much attention in their advocacy against this particular issue.
“Nevertheless, I wouldn’t advise or recommend that we delay the passage of the Bill on account of this particular issue. What we should be exploring are ways and means of ensuring that there is accountability about how these funds are raised and the spending ceiling is met as well as how the expenditure is done,” Jega said.
Earlier, the National Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), YabagiSani, called for strict enforcement of the regulations on election funding so as to prevent monetisation of the electoral process and improve the level of trust between the electorate and political party candidates.
He said that failure to do so could debase the voting process to the level of what he described as “a commodity for the highest bidder”.
Sani, who was represented by IPAC’s National Treasurer, ObidikeOkolo, noted that the triple menace of transnational drug trafficking, money-laundering and terrorism had led to corruption as well as the destruction of democratic philosophy.
He said that the controversial Electoral Amendment Bill (2020), if eventually assented to by President MuhammaduBuhari, would usher in the upgrading of what a presidential candidate could spend at elections from N1billion to N5billion, representing a 400 per cent increment amongst others, adding there is need for its enforcement to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law on political campaign finance.
“A governorship candidate will now have the leverage of spending up to N1billion from the previous N200 million; a senatorial candidate, N100 million as against N40 million and a candidate for the House of Representatives, will henceforth be legally allowed to spend N70 million instead of N30 million in their election spending.
“However, political actors and commentators have been complaining that the new ceilings imply the monetisation of the election process beyond the low-income groups in spite of their other qualifications. In this context, it is feared that women, youths and people living with disabilities will be the most excluded from the political process and governance.”
Electoral Act Amendment Bill Not Yet Signed – Presidency
President Muhammadu Buhari has not signed the Electoral Act amendment Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly, sources in the Presidency have confirmed.
Before the return of the President to Abuja last Saturday, after a two-day visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi, several online news platforms had reported that he had signed the amended electoral law.
When contacted on phone by The Tide source, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who just returned to the country with the President, said: “Yes, I have also read it. They know something we don’t know. They have their sources we don’t know.”
Similarly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, House of Representatives, Hon Umar El-Yakub, doubted the authenticity of the reports.
According to him, “he (the president) couldn’t have signed it yesterday (Friday) because he was out of the country and he couldn’t have signed already because he’s just entering the country.
“I also cannot tell you that he will still not sign it or will not sign it. He’s the President. But if it will be signed later, we will all know,” he said.
The amendment is important to the participation of statutory delegates at the primaries and national convention of political parties, having been excluded from voting and being voted in the previous amendment signed into law by the President.
Political parties are required by the Electoral Act to submit the lists of their delegates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seven days to the national convention.
Should the president refuse to sign the amended electoral bill, the statutory delegates cannot participate in the coming primaries which most parties fixed for the end of this month, leaving only elected delegates to elect presidential, governorship, and legislative candidates.
Statutory Delegates Out, Elected Delegates Now To Pick Presidential Candidates
With clear signs that President Muhammadu Buhari has no plan whatsoever to sign the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 sent to him by the National Assembly last week, the statutory delegates pushed out by the Act have turned out to be the biggest losers in the intense political game.
Section 84(8) recognises only democratically elected delegates, stating, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives had penultimate week passed the amendment to the Act to recognise statutory delegates as voters during primaries, congresses and conventions of all the political parties.
With the President hesitant to sign the amendment, it means only national delegates elected at the local government congresses will determine presidential flagbearers of the parties.
Likewise, only the five delegates elected from each ward for the state congresses will vote to elect governors, senators, House of Representatives and states’ House of Assembly members for the APC. For PDP, it will be the three delegates elected from each ward.
So, statutory delegates, including elected councillors, local government chairmen and their deputies, party chairmen in local government areas, state and federal lawmakers (current and former), governors and their deputies, President and Vice President, National Working Committee members, state party chairmen and secretaries, are no longer voters at the primaries.
The largesse they had been enjoying from all the aspirants at various levels seeking their votes – presidential, governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and states’ House of Assembly – has come to an end.
Many are struggling to face the reality and hoping that the President will still sign the amendment by today.
But analysts countered this, saying, “With the seven-days INEC rule for parties to submit their list of delegates before primary elections, new election amendment is now out of time, even if it gets presidential endorsement.”
Our source, over the weekend, gathered that the APC had already submitted its list of elected delegates to INEC, while the PDP had partially complied, to beat the seven-day deadline.
The PDP has scheduled its presidential primary for May 28 and 29, while the APC will elect its presidential candidate on May 29 and 30.
As things stand, the APC will elect its presidential flag bearer with 2,322 democratically elected delegates, based on three National delegates per local government area.
The PDP will elect its presidential flag bearer with 810 delegates based on one National delegate per local government area and one each per state to cover the physically challenged.
Power to determine those that will emerge as candidates for various elective positions has now returned to the state governors as they determined those on the list of elected delegates sent to INEC.
2023: Group Raises Fear Over Oshiomhole’s Eligibility For Election
A group under the aegis of Concerned Afemai has expressed fear that Mr Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State, maybe ambushed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should he win the Edo North Senatorial District seat or the Presidency in 2023.
The group made this known in a statement by its coordinator , Mr Steven Asemah, and spokesman, Mr Ojo Evbouan, which was made available to newsmen in Benin on Saturday.
The group noted that the former Edo State Governor, having collected forms for two elective positions in the same political party may not be eligible or suitable to vie for any election in the party.
The group which stressed that it had already registered this through a protest to the national headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), cited several controversial legal landmines that Oshiomhole may face.
They noted that to save the party the embarrassment it would face, implored that his (Oshiomhole’s) nominations for both the Presidency and Senate be stepped down.
“The validity of individuals picking dual nomination forms within the same nomination process of a political party is a controversial political habit that is exposed to legal challenge anytime.
“Consequently, Oshiomole’s dual aspiration (for presidency & senate) within APC 2022 nomination process, is a disregard for internal democracy, APC constitution, INEC Guidelines, Electoral Act 30,35,115d, 115k &.1999 Constitution.”
The statement titled: ‘The controversies of oshiomole’s credibility to contest apc primaries’ further states:
“We wish to draw the attention of our party to the serial controversies vis-a-vis legal burden hanging on Adams Aliu Oshiomole, especially relating to his non-credibility to participate in the ongoing APC Nomination Exercise for the 2023 general election.”
The group also disclosed the issues surrounding Oshiomole’s membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC. “The authenticity of Oshiomole membership status after his suspension remains an unsettled fundamental issue.
“Although on June 20th, 2020 the suspension letter was purported lifted by 17 Ward Executives but if the case was withdrawn from court, that does not validate the membership status of Oshiomole. If the suspension was lifted, did it duely comply with Section 21C(I & v) of the APC Constitution.
“In view of the precarious opposition status of APC in Edo State, where the ruling PDP under a draconic Governor Godwin Obaseki may lay ambush on the electoral prospects of APC if Adams Oshiomole is considered for nomination.
“We therefore advise the APC appeal screening committee to curtail avoidable technical losses of APC in Edo-North (which remains the only APC stronghold in Edo State).
“The Appeal Committee should review and step down Adams Aliu Oshiomole from the ongoing 2022 APC nomination process” the group said.
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