Most political parties in Nigeria, including the front-running APC and PDP, as well as reforms-touting parties of Omoyele Sowore and Kingsley Moghalu, among others, breached the country’s law on financial disclosure to the electoral commission, INEC, findings by PREMIUM TIMES show.
Section 93(4) of Nigeria’s electoral law provides that “a political party sponsoring the election of a candidate shall, within three months of the announcement of the results of the election, file a report of the contributions made by individuals and entities to (Independent National Electoral) the Commission.”
The results of the 2019 presidential election were officially announced on February 26, three days after the poll, which was mainly a contest between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the opposition PDP.
Mr Buhari, the incumbent, was returned the winner.
About 73 parties sponsored candidates for election; and by the provision of the law, they should all have submitted to INEC a report on the financial contributions they received with reference to their participation in the election by May 26, three months after the announcement of the results.
Only Four Parties Complied
Although the requirement for filing report of contributions received is statutory, only four of the 73 parties complied within three months specified by the law, INEC sources told PREMIUM TIMES.
The parties that complied were Action Democratic Party (ADP), which sponsored Yabagi Yusuf who gained 0.20 per cent of the votes; and All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), which sponsored Nwachuwkwu Nwabukwu and scored 0.02 per cent.
The other two were the Liberation Movement and YES party, which, respectively, sponsored Kriz David and Ali Soyode. Each of the parties scored 0.01 per cent.
The four, however, are part of those described as mocking Nigeria’s multi-party system by senior lawyer Femi Falana, based on their dismal showing at the polls.
Nigeria, a liberal multi-party democracy, has 91 registered political parties, 73 of which sponsored candidates for the presidential election.
However, most of them lack presence countrywide and were not able to poll up to 20 thousand votes in the last presidential election which saw a turnout rate of 34.75 per cent of 82 million registered voters.
Meanwhile, former education minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, sponsored by Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, (ACPN), also turned in a report of contributions received for the election, INEC sources said.
Mrs Ezekwesili fell out with her party and announced her withdrawal before the poll.
But her decision to withdraw was made without regard for the law, INEC said, declaring that: “the deadline for Ezekwesili or any candidate in that category to withdraw or be replaced has passed.”
INEC, then, listed her for the election in which she recorded 0.03 per cent. But her party, after her announcement to withdraw, had declared support for Mr Buhari.
The party also accused the former minister of lacking transparency in the handling of funds received for campaigns. She denied the allegation.
Mrs Ezekwesili, through her lawyer, submitted details of her campaign finance to INEC.
According to our INEC sources, the ACPN, however, insisted that the report submitted by Mrs Ezekwesili should be rejected as only the party can turn in such a report.
Mrs Ezekwesili declined to comment on this report on Tuesday.
However, INEC appears to have accepted the argument of the ACPN.
“A candidate cannot do that (submit financial report) by law,” a senior official of the commission told PREMIUM TIMES. “Only the party that sponsors the candidate is required to submit the report according to the law.”
PDP, APC breached law
Nigeria’s two major parties, the ruling APC and opposition PDP, did not comply with the law. APC scored 55.60 per cent to defeat PDP with 41.22 per cent in the presidential election.
Other parties together had 3.18 per cent.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, suggested that his party is yet to submit its report because it has not accepted the outcome of the election.
“The result is in contention,” said Mr Ologbondiyan, referring to the ongoing case between the PDP and APC over the validity of Mr Buhari’s victory.
APC’s Lanre Issa-Onilu did not comment for this report after our request.
Reforms-touting parties too
Ahead of the poll, Nigeria witnessed increased campaigns to abandon PDP and APC, the two formations that have governed Nigeria since 1999 when democracy returned.
Such parties as Omoyele Sowore’s African Action Congress, Tope Fasua’s Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, Kingsley Moghalu’s Young Progressive Party, and Fela Durotoye’s Alliance for New Nigeria, among others, sought votes on the back of promises of reforms to set a new path that included constitutionalism, for the country.
However, these parties disregarded the law requiring them to report to INEC contributions they received from individuals and entities even though they embarked on public campaigns for funding.
The legal adviser for AAC, Inibehe Effiong, told PREMIUM TIMES he was aware the “report was being compiled and “if it has not been submitted it is due to all these issues like the detention of Sowore.”
AAC faces internal problem arising from struggle to dethrone Mr Sowore as the chairman of the party by another faction.
But Mr Sowore’s arrest mentioned by Mr Effiong by the State Security Service over his #RevoluionNow campaign was in August, months after the deadline specified by law for the party to submit its report.
Although Mr Fasua’s ANRP did not turn in its report within the period the law specifies, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed its report was received by INEC on August 22, months after the deadline.
Mr Fasua shared with PREMIUM TIMES a document showing the submission.
Law without punishment
It is not the first time Nigeria parties would fail to comply with the law on disclosure. It was the case after the previous elections.
“They have never done it (complied with the law),” said Idayat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development. “It is a systemic norm. The provision is observed in breach than in compliance.”
“Surprisingly, even the parties may not even have some of the information; fundraising has been so decentralized in order to circumvent the law or curry political favours post elections,” the expert, whose group observes Nigeria’s elections, said.
While the electoral law provides that that parties should submit the report to INEC, it leaves the commission with no power to deliver punishment in the event of a breach.
The law specifies no penalty for defaulting parties. This may have caused the widespread disregard for the provision.
However, Ms Hassan said INEC could still find a way of sanctioning erring parties despite the silence observed in the provision of the law.
“The silence doesn’t mean they can’t come up with administrative sanctions or look for others along that line,” said the civil society leader. “A robust amendment on campaign should (also) be worked on in any new electoral act.”
The INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, did not comment for this report after calls and texts to his phone.