Weak Electoral Laws responsible for Vote Buying in Nigeria – CSJ

Lead Director CSJ, Eze Onyekpere

Udora Orizu in Abuja

A Civil Society Organisation, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has alleged that weak electoral laws play a major role in vote buying in the country’s political process.

Adding that, weak laws as contained in the country’s constitution leads to misuse of state administrative resources by political parties.

The Lead Director, Eze Onyekpere, at the forum on campaign finance and state administrative resources (SAR) in Abuja, stated that the absence of disclosure requirements for candidates in the act is a very big lacuna, a deliberate one introduced by the legislature in all electoral laws since 1999.

According to him:”The provisions of section 225 (2) and (5) are wide enough for INEC to undertake the detailed monitoring of political financing in Nigeria. INEC could ask for names and other details of donors to candidates and political parties. The ban on the receipt of funding from outside Nigeria appears not reasonable because it’s a known fact that parties in Nigeria have chapters in other countries like United States and the United Kingdom.

The poser now is whether there’s a monitoring mechanism in place between INEC and the political parties to verify if they do not receive funds from outside Nigeria and if they are under obligation to submit their detailed bank accounts for INEC’s scrutiny”.

“In the wake of all the foregoing provisions in the act and in the constitution, there is no single provision requiring candidates who have explicit statutory expenditure ceilings to disclose or report their expenditure to INEC or any authority or agency.

“The constitution focuses its attention on reporting by political parties and neglects expenditure of candidates. The presidential system of government in Nigeria makes elections and campaign spending candidate-centric instead of being party-centric and this leaves a great vacuum because campaign expenses form the greater bulk of political financing and the bulk spenders are not under constitutional obligation to report their expenditure” Onyekpere said

On the use of state administrative resources as mentioned in section 100 of the act, he explained that government vehicles, jets, helicopters, equipment and buildings should not be used for campaign purposes, they are public properties which if used by the incumbents gives him a head way above the resources available to other contestants, adding that using the insignia of office including official letter headed papers bearing the coat of arms to beg and canvass for support from the public is an abuse of official powers and shouldn’t happen in any decent society.

He further said the code of conduct for political parties 2013, makes provisions outlawing political parties and their agents from engaging in corrupt practices including buying votes or offering any bribe to voters. But however, the recent events of vote buying arising from Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections show the need for strict enforcement of the above and other prohibitions of vote buying by political parties.

Onyekpere urged the National Assembly and INEC on the establishment of Political Finance Monitoring Group (PFMG) by either an amendment of the electoral act or through a special and new legislation so that all stakeholders including INEC, political parties, the police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, media, Code of Conduct Bureau, Central Bank of Nigeria, Financial Intelligence Unit, National Broadcasting Commission, Inland revenue service, Nigeria Communications Commission and Civil Society Organizations will be on board with their competencies for the enforcement of political finance laws while political parties should sensitise members on campaign finance and use SARs as a basis to engage INEC and the legislature.