A recent move by the Independent National Electoral Commission to probe the financial transactions by political parties is in order and expedient in view of the proposed electoral reforms, writes Olawale Olaleye
The National chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, last week knocked political parties for not submitting details of their financial transactions during the 2019 general election, including material contributions received from individuals, groups and corporate bodies.
At a meeting in Abuja with leaders of political parties to review the conduct of the general election, Yakubu noted that it was regrettable none of the political parties had submitted its financial records, three months after the announcement of the results of the general election as provided for in the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
While directing the parties that participated in the general election to immediately submit their financial records for the election as well as audited accounts of their parties after the election, he was quick to point their attention to an obvious legal infraction.
“I wish to remind you that the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, requires each political party to submit two election expenses reports to the commission. First is the disclosure of material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies three months after the announcement of the results of the general election as provided for in Section 93(4) of the Electoral Act, so far, no political party is in compliance!
“Secondly, parties are required to submit audited returns of their election expenses within six months after an election as provided for in Section 92(3) [a] of the Electoral Act. Although we are still within the timeframe provided by law, so far only one party has filed its returns. Similarly, the commission notes that only one presidential candidate has submitted financial expenses report. We wish to remind leaders of political parties of their obligations under the law.”
Although the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its response to the allegation said the election would not be over until after the election tribunals and the Supreme Court had delivered judgments on the various petitions challenging the outcome of the election.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, explained: “We are still at the tribunals. The elections are not over. The party will comply with all relevant electoral laws when we finish our petitions at the tribunal – this time the Supreme Court. So, PDP has not breached any electoral law as regards submitting our financial records to INEC.”
Curiously, spokesperson for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, had no idea whether or not his party had not complied, saying,“I’m not in a position to confirm to you immediately; I can find out soon and I will feed you back later.”
The truth is that this is one aspect of the electoral process that the INEC must be firm about, because the role of money in the nation’s body polity has become so rampant and even more disturbing to the extant that vote-buying is almost a part of the nation’s electoral culture.
Apart from enforcing the ceiling of spending limit that each category of election is entitled to, INEC must take a step further to monitor the spending and at the end of the polls, reconcile its own findings with whatever was submitted by the parties.
Also, INEC must as much as possible, have a voice in the cost of nomination and expression of interest forms by the political parties, because the prices some of them sold the forms were not only impossible, but also ungodly. Sadly, the ruling party was culpable here.
This is because, when parties designed such a financially rigid system deliberately to alienate some financially vulnerable categories of people from the process, what is left are moneybags, whose intentions and development ideas are questionable.
There is no way a thorough analysis of the 2019 elections would be done and INEC would not be thumbed down for some of its ignoble roles or laidback disposition to conscious moves to undermine its efforts, that it is making moves to right some of these inadequacies is commendable and deserve all the support.
INEC must therefore pay deserving attention to the issue of spending and other financial transactions by political parties at all times so that sanity could begin to find its way back into the system through electoral accountability.
The assumption that no one accounts for election money is the beginning of electoral corruption and to deal with this mentality and its scourge, INEC must be firm, decisive and sincere. The nation is at a crossroads in practically all strata of her life, therefore, getting this right would go a very long way.