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2023 Elections: What you need to know about campaign funds

In elections, campaigns provide the grounds for political candidates to market themselves before the electorates and unveil their plans.

It is all about casting a popular figure and reassuring the citizens of the realities of one’s political aspirations in return for their vital support and publicity. 

Campaigns translate to being “everywhere” possible that can pass as a public space. More or less anything that can make up an intermediary to engage the public’s thoughts to vote for a political candidate. 

Campaigns can sometimes be expensive, and in most cases, political aspirants and parties seek external financiers and donors. This article takes a look at campaign funding in Nigeria.

Electoral expense and its limit

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has imposed regulations on how political candidates and parties open their chequebooks and sign off on monetary disbursements. This ensures that the monies that political candidates and their respective parties expend are legitimately-gotten and accounted for. 

In the 2022 Electoral Act, INEC stipulated certain conditions that will regulate the in-flow of financial supply and expenditure by political candidates or parties. 

Very important to note is the term “electoral expense”, which, according to section 89 of the 2022 Electoral Act, refers to expenditures financed by a political party from when the electoral commission announced the election date to the day when the election commences.

According to section 88 of the 2022 Electoral Act, anyone who intends to run for the presidential office cannot expend more than N5 billion. For governorship, the maximum amount that any person who is campaigning for a governorship can spend is N1 billion.

Likewise, any person aspiring for a senatorial seat shall not spend above N1 billion on election expenses. In contrast, his counterpart aspiring for a seat in the House of Representatives shall not exceed election costs of N70 million. For those vying for seats in the State House of Assembly, election expenses aren’t expected to exceed N30 million. 

Ditto any individual who desires to become the chairman of an area council shall not spend above N30 million. Also, any person who aspires to the post of a councillor of an area council shall spend not more than N5 million.

Accountability via audit reports

According to section 89 of the 2022 Electoral Act, the sum cost of the expenses that political parties will finance for electoral matters and logistics will be determined by the electoral commission after consultations with political parties. 

Following the election, it is expected that the audit report of the expenses undertaken by a political party will be presented to the electoral commission within six months. This report is to be signed by two auditors of the political parties and countersigned by the chairman of the political party. Attached to the report will be an affidavit signed by signatories to the report about the truthfulness of the report. 

Suppose a political party refuses to declare its audit report; in that case, such a party is liable to pay N1 million as a penalty and N2.3 billion per day if the audit report is found to be inaccurate.

The section also lists that if a political party disburses and spends funds above the stipulated limit, it would be fined N22 billion and will be made to forfeit the excess funds to the electoral commission.

Accepting funds/donations

On donations, the article lists that any contribution from either an individual or establishment to a political candidate shall not exceed N50 million. However, section 90(2) submits that any individual or entity that donates above N22 billion should have both the name and the donor’s address recorded by the recipient political party. The section also prescribes the possession of a record book by political parties, in which all provided and donated funds would be penned and documented.

Subsection (3) further grants political parties the privilege to accept funds exceeding N245 billion if they know the donor’s identity. 

Moreso, subsection (4) highlights that political parties are expected to give a report after three months of the announcement of election results of the individuals and groups that had financed them.

It is, however, important to note that section 85 of the electoral Act dictates that political parties are culpable of financial breaches if they accept funds from sources outside the country’s boundaries, thereby flouting section 225(3) of the Nigerian constitution. 

If such happens, the political party will be made to forgo such funds or property assets that were purchased with such funds to the electoral commission as a punitive measure for flouting section 225 (3) of the Nigerian constitution. 

Furthermore, any political party that is found guilty of such will be sanctioned to pay N5 million.

Section 87 of the electoral Act noted that the electoral commission has the power to determine and set limits to the number of funds that an external financier can assist with a candidate or political party. The electoral commission also wields the right to know the source of administered funds given to any candidate or political party and the details of such transactions. 

Suppose a candidate or political party is found wanting to breach the policy. In that case, receiving funds above the stipulated limit or retaining them, the candidate will be ordered to pay five times the money he received to the purse of the electoral commission. In contrast, a political party will remit N10 million in that manner.

But the recent trend of setting up GoFundMe accounts openly by political stakeholders and supporters from one political party to another might pose a challenge to the electoral commission. Despite the awareness by political candidates and parties that there are prerequisites installed by the electoral commission to account for funds spent during campaigns, the former fly excuses that they need donations to float their ‘crucial’ political agenda and make a change. Meanwhile, the electoral commission allows sleeping dogs to lie with eyes wide open.

The Act Vs Reality

Before the 2022 Electoral Act, the electoral commission had upheld the 2019 Electoral Act (Amended), which provided a varied price for the different categories of political offices. 

Despite the availed situation that INEC has again chorused its injunction to both political candidates and parties to comply with the financial ethics of election campaigns, it has failed to sanction erring candidates for their shortcomings in electoral financial conduct. 

Civil observers hold high the opinion that the seemingly unsteady election umpire cannot fully apply its lawful wrath of discipline on both political candidates and parties because it has not carefully identified if it is a case of the shortcoming of the candidate or the party. 

They further noted that it would be difficult for the electoral commission to monitor the financial discipline observed by candidates and political parties because of the large number of election campaign donors, including those who pose as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). 

But they advise that the defect is not without a panacea, as INEC should allow individuals and establishments who want to crowdfund on behalf of the political candidates and parties to do so. They believe it will discourage political and public officeholders from siphoning public funds. From another point of view, it was suggested that the electoral commission should put its feet on the ground and stand by its financial policies.  

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