Monday, December 28, 2015
INEC's lax regulation of political finance
The new INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu and five national commissioners were inaugurated on Monday, November 9, 2015 after they had successfully undergone Senate screening and confirmation. It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari at the maiden meeting of the National Council of States held on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 appointed Prof. Yakubu as Chairman of INEC; Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as member representing North West; Prof. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbine as Commissioner in charge of North Central; Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo from Borno as Commissioner representing North East; Dr, Mohammed Mustapha Lecky from Edo as Commissioner representing South-South and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon from Ogun in charge of South West.
Right now the new board is settling down to business. It would be nice to know what Yakubu’s INEC thoughts are on the issue of political finance breaches perennially being perpetrated by Nigeria’s registered political parties. I am saying this against the background of the startling revelations arising from the on-going trial of Col. Sambo Dasuki (Retd.) who is the immediate past National Security Adviser. There are snippets in the media on how funds meant to equip the Nigerian Army to fight insurgency were allegedly diverted to grease the palms of some politicians ahead of the last general election. I do hope this Dasukigate turns out to be a hoax. If there is one sore point in the tenure of all previous INEC helmsmen, it is their inability to checkmate the excesses of political parties in the area of campaign finance.
The legal instruments on political finance can be found in the following legislations and guidelines. They include the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended; the Electoral Act 2010, as amended; Companies and Allied Matters Act (2004); Code of Conduct for Political Parties; Political Finance Manual and Handbook (2015); political party constitutions and Guidelines for Political Parties (2013). These provisions are very copious so much so that many political finance experts have said that Nigeria has one of the most comprehensive political finance regulations in Africa.
Specifically, political finance provisions can be found in the following sections of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended: Sections 15 ( c ) and (d) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule, 221, 225, 226, 228 (c). In the Electoral Act 2010, as amended in Sections 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 100, and 124. In the Companies and Allied Matters Act (2004) in Section 38 (2). Political parties are supposed to file three reports to INEC. These are annual statements of audited account, election expenses report as well as election contribution report.
Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended in Section 225. (2) states that “Every political party shall submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission a detailed annual statement and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets together with a similar statement of its expenditure in such form as the Commission may require.
(3) No political party shall - (a) hold or possess any funds or other assets outside Nigeria; or (b) be entitled to retain any funds or assets remitted or sent to it from outside Nigeria. (4) Any funds or other assets remitted or sent to a political party from outside Nigeria shall be paid over or transferred to the Commission within twenty-one days of its receipt with such information as the Commission may require.” The question is how much compliance and enforcement has been witnessed in relation to this omnibus section of the Constitution on party finance regulations? Not much in my opinion.
Section 226. (1) of the Nigerian Constitution further shouldered INEC with a statutory responsibility. It says “The Independent National Electoral commission, shall in every year prepare and submit to the National Assembly a report on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. (2) It shall be the duty of the commission, in preparing its report under this section, to carry out such investigations as will enable it to form an opinion as to whether proper books of accounts and proper records have been kept by any political party, and if the Commission is of the opinion that proper books of accounts have not been kept by a political party, the Commission shall so report.” I know for a fact that INEC sends external auditors to examine the account books of political parties and have also been publishing report of its findings for public consumption. In all the previous reports published only a couple of political parties usually keep proper records while majority are in breach. Unfortunately, that is where it ends. INEC has never prosecuted any of the erring political parties neither do the National Assembly to which INEC file the audit reports.
As regards the provisions of the Electoral Act, it places reporting obligations on political parties and INEC too. Section 89 of the Act is a further elaboration of Section 225 of the Nigeria Constitution quoted above. It requests political parties to submit annual statement of political party assets and liabilities and sources of funds. Subsection 4 of that clause says INEC shall publish such report in three national newspapers. Section 92 (3) stipulates that political parties are to submit election expenses report six months after the conclusion of the polls. Have we seen compliance with these sections after the March/April 2015 General Elections? In section 93 (4) of the Act, a political party sponsoring candidates is supposed to submit report of the financial contributions received in favour of such candidates within three months of announcement of results of election in which the candidate was fielded. How much compliance have we witnessed in this regard? It has been about eight months since 2015 General Elections was concluded.
INEC in section 92 (8) of the Act supposed to make available for public inspection the audit reports submitted by political parties. This has been observed in breach. Sections 91 and 92 as well as 124 of the Act contains penalties for breaches of campaign finance regulations but INEC has never deemed it fit to invoke this power to prosecute parties for flouting of legal requirements on campaign and political finance regulations. Will this impunity continue under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC? It needs being emphasized that there is a thin line between political finance and political corruption and unless Nigeria is able to substantially demonetise the electoral process by ensuring full compliance with political and campaign finance regulations, our efforts at national development may be a mirage.
•Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja. Follow me on twitter @jideojong