HeadlineAS INEC FALTERS: Political Parties Flout Campaign Expenditure Law

AS INEC FALTERS: Political Parties Flout Campaign Expenditure Law

GTBCO FOOD DRINL

February 24, (THEWILL) – Investigation has revealed that political parties have acted in breach of the law in almost every election cycle with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) looking the other way. This is especially so as it relates to campaign expenditure as the law mandates political parties to submit, within six months after elections, their financial reports showing the donations and expenditure on every election in fulfilment of provisions of the Electoral Act.

For doing what ought to be an annual ritual by political parties after every election, the Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation, which publicly released its expenditure for the 2023 General Election last week, predictably attracted wide media coverage and some personal attacks on the social media, to boot.

By last week’s release of its campaign and election spending, the Obi/Datti campaign organisation has once again raised the burning issue of accountability and due process on election spending by almost all the political parties and their presidential, governorship, federal and state legislative candidates that have been participating in elections since the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

According to Aisha Yesufu, Chairman of the FundRaising Team for the Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation, the organisation received N595.9 million from Nigerians and spent N774,5 million on litigation. The meeting of the campaign organisation was chaired by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi.

According to Yesufu, the breakdown is as follows: N575, 976,994.00 from a donation of N800, 000, 000.00 from Obi. It spent N268, 374, 330.00 for campaign materials; N16,422,866.00 on media. Others are N10,808,948.00 for election promotion materials; N324,381,700.00 on polling unit agents; N1,750, 544.00 on bank charges; N477,000.00 on administrative charges; N744,500,000.00 on legal expenses; N28,500,000.00 on campaign and election activities. The balance is N19, 238, 395.00.

Even so, the report is coming more than the stipulated six months after the election as required by law.

“As a body determined to inject sanity into our polity, we will continue in the right direction by ensuring that we transparently account for these funds,” Tanko Yinusa, chief spokesperson for the campaign committee said afterwards.

Considering the role of political parties as agents of mobilisation, aggregation of interests and resolution of conflicts at the centre of power in a multi-party democracy, “injecting sanity into the polity, “ through due process and transparent conduct would certainly be on the plate of political parties.

But how far have the political parties faced and passed this integrity test since the dawn of democracy in 1999?

The answer, according to the investigation, is blowing in the wind.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

For one, the law mandates political parties to submit their financial reports showing the donations and expenditure on every election in fulfilment of provisions of the Electoral Act.

The legal charge is based on the fact that political parties all over the world source funds for their electioneering through contributions from members, supporters, patrons, donations and corporate entities.

According to provisions of the 2022 amendment to the Electoral Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May, the limit for campaign spending for elections into the different offices was increased from what used to obtain in the 2010 amended Electoral Act.

Whereas Section 91 of the 2010 Amended Act stipulated a N1 billion ceiling for presidential elections in Section 91 of the 2010 amended Act, Section 88 of the new law raised it to N5 billion. Similarly, the spending limits on the governorship and National Assembly elections were raised from N200 million, N40 million and N10 million to N1 billion, N100 million and N70 million, respectively.

However, Section 92 (3) of the 2020 Electoral Act (as amended) says, “Election expenses of a political party shall be submitted to the Commission in a separate audited return within 6 months after an election and such return shall be signed by the political party’s auditor’s and countersigned by the Chairman of the party and be supported with a sworn affidavit by the signatories as to the correctness of its contents.”

Basically, the Electoral Act requires political parties to submit their financial statements within six months after an election, while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must publish the audited reports in at least three national newspapers.

In all, there are three financial reports that political parties are expected by law to submit to INEC. They are the election contributions report, which must be submitted three months after election results have been announced; election expenses report, to be submitted six months after election day and annual report by political parties.

HOW POLITICAL PARTIES ARE COMPLYING WITH THE PROVISIONS

Investigation however shows that political parties have acted in breach of the law in almost every election cycle with the INEC looking the other way.

When he spoke to THEWILL on this issue last Thursday, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, could only say that many political parties have submitted their reports to the Commission.

Contacted, all the four major political parties whose presidential candidates won public acceptance as the results showed in the 2023 general election votes- PDP, APC, LP, NNPP-, failed to respond to enquiries. Their spokespersons refused to answer phone calls.

Nonetheless, findings show that since the first election in 1999 when only three political parties – the PDP, All Peoples Party, ANP and Alliance for Democracy- participated, progressively 20, 25, 20, 14 and 73, 18 political parties were on the ballots in the 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, 2023 presidential elections.

Reports also showed that out of the 18 political parties that participated in the 2023 general election, only one party, the Action Democratic Party, ADP, has managed to comply with the relevant provisions in full by submitting its expenditure within the 6 months window. According to its document submitted to the INEC on 30 May 2019, the party said it spent a total of N95 million (N95,388,417) on the 2019 general elections.

The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Labour Party, LP, New Nigeria People Party, NNPP, African Democratic Congress ,ADC, African Action Congress, AAC, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Accord, Action Alliance, AA, Peoples Redemption Party , PRP, Action Peoples Party, APP, Social Democratic Party, SDP, Young Progressives Party, YPP, Allied Peoples Movement, APM, Action Peoples Party, APP, Action Democratic Party, ADP, Zenith Progressives Alliance, ZPA, National Rescue Movement, NRM, and Boot Party which have been participating in the elections since 2019, have acted in breach of the law.

Only eight out of the 18 registered political parties submitted their annual report for 2015, while only the ADC, ADP and LP submitted their annual reports for 2019.

Accord, AA, ADC, ADP, LP, APGA, APC, PDP and NNPP submitted the report in 2015.

What this means is that the parties have been reluctant to submit the full complement of the required reports as stipulated by law. They do so in segments and still face no sanctions from the INEC.

INEC YET TO ACT

The reluctance of the parties to follow due process has been condoned by the INEC for no reason other than laxity and indulgence.

“INEC has been failing in its oversight function of the political parties and so the parties have been getting away with the failure to submit comprehensive reports of their activities,” Law teacher and political analyst, Dr Sam Amadi, said on National Television last Thursday.

Amadi argued that INEC’ s failure to sanction the parties shows that Commission “is not interested in obeying even its own rules.”

For example, PDP and the APC reportedly submitted their reports for the 2015 general poll very late. The PDP, which was the ruling party at the time, claimed that it spent N4.8 billion on the presidential poll. The audit report shows that the APC spent N2.9 billion on election expenses for the 2015 general election.

Even though the APC and the PDP reports came years behind schedule, INEC has also refused to publish the Executive Summary of External Auditor Report on The Account of Political Parties for the Year 2015/2016.

According to reports, the Commission claimed that its reports are with professional audit firms appointed by INEC to ascertain that the financial statements comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

The APC report was audited by Mai-Alheri and Co, while the then-ruling PDP report was audited by Paul Akinade Adebimpe and Co.

“In the report, the APC generated only N604.5 million in 2015, but spent N2.9 billion, leaving a deficit of N2.3 billion. On the other hand, the PDP earned only N799 million in 2015, but spent N9.53 billion on the presidential campaign, leaving a deficit of N8.7 billion.

Mostly, the party’s income, according to the report, was derived from the sale of nomination forms and donations/gifts. Its nomination forms generated N329.5 million, and donations and gifts brought in N275 million.

The generated funds were, however, spent on administration, election, repairs and maintenance, welfare and financial charges.

Administrative cost was put at N296.3 million, N2.6 billion on the election, N56.5 million on repairs and maintenance, N485,800 on welfare and N15.4 million on financial charges, for a grand total of N2,952,924,250.

Sadly, the report also shows that salaries and wages for the period under review gulped N25,709,165, while the party paid N28,887,500 for audit and professional fees.

The APC reported that it had a surplus of N2,348,426,793 in the audited report, while its depreciation for the year 2015 was N44,198,934.

The report also shows that the party’s surplus (deficit) after depreciation is N2,392,625,727.

Three years after the 2019 general election and on the eve of the 2023 general poll, what the Commission’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, could only do was to remind the parties to publish their expenditures for the 2019 general election. This was clearly in defiance of the new Electoral Act.

INEC, through tracking and monitoring, established that the APC spent N4.6 billion (N4,620,144,784), while the PDP spent N3.3 billion (N3,282,206,642) during the last presidential election on billboards, print media advertisements, electronic media advertisements and coverage (musical performances) during the 2019 poll. In clear violation of the rules of the game, however, the Commission opted not to publish its report on a national newspaper.

This shows that INEC is yet to conform with Section 15(c) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The section stipulates that the Commission “shall arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information.”

Section 89 (8) of the new Electoral Act says, “The Commission shall make available for public inspection during regular business hours at its headquarters and state offices the audited returns of the political parties required by subsection (3) which shall include the names, addresses, occupation, and amount contributed by each contributor to a party.”

Also, Section 89 (3) stipulates that “Election expenses of a political party shall be submitted to the Commission in a separate audited return within six months after the election and such return shall be signed by the political party’s auditors and countersigned by the chairman of the party and be supported by a sworn affidavit by the signatories as to the correctness of its contents.”

UNIMPLEMENTED FINES

According to the law, any political party that contravenes subsection (3) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 and in the case of failure to submit an accurate audited return within the stipulated period, the court may impose a maximum penalty of N200,000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission.

The Electoral Act also says any political party that incurs election expenses beyond the limit set in Subsection (2) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 and forfeiture of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the Commission.

About the Author

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Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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Amos Esele, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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