By Shuaib Abdulrahman Alabidun
Since the advent of democracy in 1999, the link between party financing and corruption in Nigeria has become more like Siamese twins. It is difficult to separate. They cut across political divides, whether perceived as “saint party” or a “sinner party”, progressives or conservatives. Perhaps, this may be the reasons why people of integrity, technocrats, professionals, and retired civil servants appear to distance themselves from party politics as they do not see it as an avenue through which they can make their contributions to the building of a nation because of the presumption that politics is for those who have the wherewithal different from integrity and expertise.
No doubt, political parties play pivotal roles as institutions in the advancement of any nation, but it becomes worrisome how party politics has become an avenue to swindle and squander public resources.
The expectation is that electoral success is supposed to be influenced by personality ideas, values and traits but the opposite is the case in Nigeria as party tickets are well competed for among those with intimidating deep pockets. At the end, the highest bidder among the moneybags would fly the party’s flag during elections.
To check its excesses, as statutorily stipulated, Sections 222 – 229 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provide rules and regulations on the operations of political parties, just as Sections 225 and 226 clearly affirm the powers of the INEC, the country’s electoral body to monitor, inquire into and assess campaign finances, and a party’s source of and management of funds.
Also, Section 228 expressly provides sanctions regarding party finance and campaign finance and provides the National Assembly statutory powers in this regard.
The extant 2010 Electoral Act, as amended, pegs 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 92 (3) of this enabling law also requires every political party to submit, six months after every election, an audited revenue and expenditure report of the party, failing which stipulated penalties are enforced.
However, going by the exclusive investigation conducted by Premium Times, it disclosed that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP spent N2.9 billion, while the All Progressives Party, APC spent N4.8 billion on the hotly-contested polls.
APC’s audit report was filed by Mai-Alheri and Co. who disclosed that the party derived its 2015 income from the sale of nomination forms which generated N329.5 million, and donations and gifts which generated N275 million.
The APC also spent N296.3 million on administration, N56.5 million on repairs and maintenance, N485,800 million on welfare and N15.4 million on financial charges.
The audit noted that while the party spent N2.9 billion on the 2015 polls, it generated only N604.5 million in the same calendar year, leaving a deficit of N2.3 billion. The party disclosed that this was covered by its surplus from 2014 when it earned about N6.4 billion and spent only N4 billion.
The party also named some fixed assets it acquired, including office equipment at N5.1 million, APC Data Centre equipment at N300,000, furniture and fittings at N6.8 million, motor vehicles at N20 million and library books at N3.4 million totaling about N35.8 million.
According to the PDP’s audit report, which was executed by Paul Akinade Adebimpe and Co., the party’s income in 2015 was derived from donations and levies totalling N200 million and other incomes that amounted to N599.2 million.
While the party spent N4.8 billion on the 2015 elections, it also spent N1.7 billion on administration, N2.8 billion on its national secretariat and N54 million on other financial expenses.
The party had a surplus of N9.4 billion from 2014, as it spent only N3.6 billion from the N13 billion it reportedly earned.
External auditors working for INEC noted that the APC’s internal audit system was not properly in place, making it difficult to confidently establish the party’s full financial position. The party was also alleged to not possess proper records of fixed assets while also manually executing financial transactions.
Also, like APC, INEC’s auditors noted the PDP’s failure to prepare a budget for the period under review, an act that could leave room for excessive spending by the party. The party was also noted to manually record financial transactions, a process that could easily lead to errors. The party’s fixed asset register was also not maintained for the period under review.
On Thursday, May 10, 2018, while speaking at a press conference, a former president, between 1999 and 2007, on the platform of the PDP, Olusegun Obasanjo, alleged that his party actually used $3 billion ‘directly or indirectly’ from the government treasury to fund its campaign in the 2015 general elections.
With the foregoing events, it is very important for the INEC to tighten the noose around parties by ensuring decency in financial expenditures before, during and after campaigns.
The sanity of the electoral system will be better guaranteed with lesser funds for circulation during the campaign periods as this would encourage participation of genuine personalities with sense of leadership in the electoral process.
If well enacted, the emerging scenario of two parties in Nigeria would be clipped with the implementation of the laws guiding the money to be spent during campaigns.
Strangely, Nigerian politicians have found a way to preach against excessive campaign funding when they are not in government but are usually guilty whenever they become officials of a ruling government.
However, the current government must show political will to agitate for respect of the laws guiding the limitations in campaign funding and accountability in the funds that are used for elective purposes.
We must also be wary of encouraging corruption if we fail in the regulation of this very important policy. In the end, we should ask: must we all be saints before campaigns and refuse to respect the laws during campaigns?
*Alabidun, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote from Wuye, Abuja.