Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What do Nigerian politicians spend their election fund on?


Election time is an interesting time in Nigeria. It is a season of spending spree by politicians and their political parties.   Some years ago, about 2004, I was privileged to participate in a two day seminar organized by the Independent Policy Group, a think tank established to assist the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to research on topical national issues. The forum discussed extensively what the Nigeria political class spends their election fund on. The submissions from that event were very insightful. The IPG seminar came up with a comprehensive list of what politicians spend their election fund on.

Among the legitimate spending are the funds used to hire campaign offices and equip them with furniture, automobiles, and staff. Money spent on campaigns is also a legitimate spending.  This is inclusive of monies spent on hiring campaign venues, public address systems, decorations, printing of manifestoes or program of action, provision of security, transportation, and communication. Even monies spent on advertisement in print and electronic media is legitimate. It would be recalled that for the media houses, election time is their season of financial harvests. They seize the opportunity to hike their advert rates knowing full well that aspirants, candidates and their political parties will throng to them to market themselves.  As part of security measures, aspirants also hire private security companies to complement police escorts attached to them. They also import bulletproof cars and install close circuit television cameras in and around their residences and offices.

To facilitate their keeping with tight campaign schedules, some affluent aspirants or candidates also charter helicopters and airplanes for their transportation. This is often the case with presidential candidates and to a limited extent governorship candidates who have to campaign across vast constituencies.  Some wealthy aspirants even engage in welfare programs well ahead of the electioneering period. Some provide electricity transformers to communities that do not have electricity, some give out scholarships to indigent students in their communities; others in addition sponsor people on holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Jerusalem, some others pay medical bills of sick people who do not have resources to take care of themselves. Some others even organize lottery programs where people win various gifts items like grinding machines, dryers, clippers, electricity generators, clothing materials, sewing machines, etc. Some other politicians provide borehole water to communities without potable water.  

It is also important to know that a lot of resources are spent on unlawful things by politicians. Such is money spent on recruiting political thugs and arming them. On Saturday, May 11, 2013, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was quoted on BBC Hausa Service (published in Sunday Punch of May 12) as saying that “When we formed the Peoples Democratic Party and candidates emerged, the governors earmarked huge amounts of money to buy arms for youth groups so as to use them in winning the election.” This declaration has established the nexus between election and electoral violence in Nigeria. No wonder election time is tension-soaked with many often killed or maimed and a lot of properties destroyed.

Also, on November 12, 2012, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega said some political parties do earmark monies to bribe the election officials and security agents. Speaking at a Roundtable Conference on Party Politics in Nigeria and Lobbying the Lobbyist and the Legislature, organized by the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS in Abuja, the INEC chair was quoted as saying:  “Political parties budget to bribe security and INEC officials. This is a very serious challenge to our democracy.”  (Vanguard, November 13, 2012). It is not only the election officials and security agents that politicians attempt to bribe, even they reach out to the judges at the election tribunals and a couple of judges have been disciplined by the National Judicial Council for compromising themselves. On February 20, 2013, the NJC actually suspended a judge that served at the Osun State election petition tribunal while also recommending him for compulsory retirement.  From the earlier mentioned IPG seminar, I also learnt politicians have special vote for engaging spiritualists be it pastors, alfas or herbalists. 

Technically speaking, in accordance with Section 91 (8) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, much of the resources spent on election are not classified as election expenses. There are three grounds of exemption. The first is any deposit made by the candidate on his nomination in compliance with the law; also, any expenditure incurred before the notification of the date fixed for the election with respect to services rendered or materials supplied before such notification; or political party expenses in respect of the candidate standing for a particular election.  Even though the aforementioned expenses are not calculated as part of the election expenses of the politicians contesting elections, it nonetheless needs to be factored in informally as the amount involved is quite significant.