Jonathan, big donors breach Nigeria's Electoral Act: News Analysis

Jonathan, big donors breach Nigeria's Electoral Act: News Analysis

Sunday, December 21, 2014 9:31 pm

At the Fundraising for Jonathan on Saturday 20 December

At the Fundraising for Jonathan on Saturday 20 December

By Bayo Onanuga

Expectedly, President Goodluck Jonathan’s fundraising effort yesterday which made his campaign war chest bulging with N21.27 billion has created a storm.

The opposition All Progressives Congress described it a waste and a gross misallocation of resources.

The party recommended that the money be used to improve power supply.

And in social media, many commentators are not amused that such hefty funds were raised in the midst of poverty and the increasing financial problems confronting the states, with some struggling to pay the workers.

Of all the arising issues however, the most significant was the gross violation of the 2010 Electoral Act by both President Jonathan and his deep-pocket donors.

Section 90 of the electoral act states that the National Electoral Commission, INEC, shall have the power to impose limitations on the amount of money or assets any individual or group of persons can contribute to a political party.

INEC has not done that since 1999. And it has never also bothered to find out the level of expenses political parties incurred during elections. If INEC bothers to scratch the surface of the expenses—advertising budget, sludge funds going to a variety of interests, the findings, we are sure, will be enough to disqualify candidates for gross violation of the electoral law.

In sub-section one of Section 91, the law states clearly that election expenses shall not exceed the sum as stipulated in sub sections 2-7.

INEC Chairman, Jega: ignoring the law

INEC Chairman, Jega: ignoring the law

In sub section 2, which concerns presidential candidates, the law states that the maximum expenses that a candidate can incur in a presidential election shall be a maximum of Ni billion. Sub section 3 allows governorship candidates to spend a maximum of N200million.

Unless, INEC officials reside on the International Space Station, they cannot pretend that President Jonathan and his donors have committed or about to commit a most egregious assault on the electoral law.

President Jonathan himself appeared worried about the provisions of this law when he said the N21.27 billion collected was not meant for him personally but for the PDP.

“I thank everyone who made donation tonight,” said Jonathan.

And he went on to say that the money was for the PDP, stressing that the amounted generated would help to run the PDP better.

It however remains to be seen whether the INEC would accept the President’s explanation, without monitoring how this war chest will be deployed in the next few weeks, as part of the arsenal for what has been predicted to be Nigeria’s tightest election since 1999.

Campaign funding is already generating interest in the civil society.

Today, a Nigerian civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) announced it has dragged the All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to court over “failure to disclose their sources of spending on their respective electoral campaigns and other operations linked to the February 2015 general elections.”

The suits filed last week at the Federal High Court Ikoyi followed Freedom of Information requests to PDP National Chairman Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu and APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun dated 18 November 2014.

The originating summons against the PDP with suit number FHC/CS/1969/2014 and against the APC with suit number FHC/CS/1968/2014 were brought pursuant to section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, and signed by SERAP Senior Staff Attorney, Olukayode Majekodunmi.

The plaintiff is arguing that under the FOI Act, “Nigerians have the right to know about spending by their political parties especially the major parties with a strong possibility to assume government in the future. Citizens should be able to examine financial transactions of parties and be certain that politicians are working for their voters, not their benefactors.”

The plaintiff wants the court to determine “Whether by virtue of the provision of section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants are under an obligation to provide the Plaintiff with the information requested for.”

According to the plaintiff, “Releasing the information will help to address the perception among the citizens that the major political parties in the countries are less transparent and accountable. The lack of transparency and accountability in political finance is seriously undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the democratic and electoral processes, and invariably contributing to denying the citizens the right to effective participation in their own government.”

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