Monday, February 27, 2012

JISIEC and Campaign Finance Regulation

Jigawa State is located in the North-West geo-political zone of Nigeria. It was created out of the old Kano State on Tuesday, August 27, 1991 and has 27 Local Government Areas. Jigawa State Independent Electoral Commission (JISIEC) is one of the 36 State Independent Electoral Commissions in the country. JISIEC on February 18, 2012 conducted elections into the Chairmanship and Councillorship positions in all the LGAs of the State. Ahead of the election, I was one of the 4-man team that conducted trainings for the Electoral Officers, Assistant Electoral Officers, Head of Departments of JISIEC and the Collation/ Returning Officers appointed by the Commission. The trainings which were held at Jigawa State Hotel, Dutse between February 7 – 9, 2012 afforded me opportunity of examining the State Electoral Law and Guidelines for the Election. In this piece however, attention is focused on the campaign finance provisions contained in the legal framework.

JISIEC operates with State Independent Electoral Commission Law 2008 and Guidelines for Local Government Election 2012. Section 34 (c ) of the Jigawa State electoral law frowns at vote buying and has a penalty of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both attached to the offence. A similar provision in section 36 (1e) states that: “Any person who induces or procures any other person to vote at an election knowing that such other person is not qualified to vote at an election shall be guilty of an offence liable on conviction to a fine of N100, 000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.” Likewise, section 38 has very lengthy descriptions of bribery and corruption that the Commission frowns at and stipulated same penalty as above for such misdemeanors. In fact, succeeding section 39(1) states additional penalty of disqualification for a period of four years for anyone convicted of corrupt practices under the Act.

Further, section 45 of JISIEC law stipulates that “ Any person which being a voter corruptly accepts or takes money or induces any other person during election day shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N50,000 or six months imprisonment or both.” In section 87 the law prescribed that anyone vying for the position of councilor and chairmanship in Jigawa State should make a non-refundable payment of a fee to be prescribed by JISIEC. On inquiry, I was informed that councillorship contestant are required to pay N50,000 while those contesting for chairmanship are expected to pay N100,000 fee.

Additionally, the guideline in section 3(ii) states that “A person shall be qualified as a candidate to contest any Local Government election if; he produces evidence of TAX payment as and when due for a period of three years immediately proceeding the year of election.” In section 5 (5), the guideline stipulates that “Candidates shall not offer bribes or other forms of inducement to voters either directly or indirectly.”

So much for legal jargons, the issues at stake are: How many political parties, candidates and electorates in Jigawa State are aware of these legal provisions regulating campaign finance in the State? I ask this question because, oftentimes, when laws are passed, public enlightenment on these laws is hardly ever conducted by relevant authority. Granted that the aim of the state government in making these provisions in the law is to create a level playing field for the contestants during the election, lack of voter education may impede the achievement of this ideal.

This brings us to the issue of JISIEC’s capacity to create the needed awareness around the legal provisions governing Local Government Election in the state as well as enforcing compliance. It is doubtful if JISIEC has the technical capacity to do this as most of its staffers, inclusive of its Electoral Officers and their assistants, are engaged on ad-hoc basis. Even if they are permanent staff, political will, financial muscle and relevant trainings are needed to equip JISIEC staffs to ensure that chairmanship and councillorship positions in Jigawa State do not go to the highest bidders.