2019: APC, PDP others face campaign funding hurdles

 

Oyegun

With 2019 around the corner, it will be open season soon enough with political parties bearing their fangs. It will also be the season of the money bags as money, yet again, will play a prominent role in determining who is going to run and win which office in the election year.

In 2015, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, estimated that political parties in Nigeria spent nearly N196billion ($547million, on current exchange rate) to contest various offices, making the 2015 elections the most expensive in the country’s history.

These figures were revealed by the The chief technical adviser to the chairman of INEC Prof. Bolade Eyinla during a 2017 conference organised by the Wesminster Foundation for Democracy.

“In Nigeria, our core cost was $547 million. It is perhaps the most expensive election that we have ever seen. I have seen figures somewhere of between $1.5 billion and $2 billion and, believe me, it is true if we really knew what happened. In one scandal, we heard of $115 million,” Prof. Eyinla had said.

With the 2015 spending more than double that of 2011, there is no saying how much the political parties will have to spend in 2019 with the dollar having doubled in value since the last elections.

Then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, contributed to the traceable expenditure of the election with N8.74 billion naira while all the other opposition parties spent N2.9 billion to contest the 2015 elections. These are expenses for advertisements in the media alone, without taking into consideration the monies that exchanged hands through underhand dealings that characterised those elections.

Now that the PDP, the biggest spenders by far have been kicked out of government, with insinuations that the party has been dipping into the public treasuries to fund its spending spree, with former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki being prosecuted for diverting over N2 billion meant to procure arms for the military to fund the party, it is clear that the party will have to look for alternative source of funds.

But the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) might also struggle to fund its campaign as the Treasury Single Account policy, which ensures that all monies accrued by the government are channelled into a signle account, thereby limiting the amount parastatals and their heads have at their disposals to contribute to the spending of the ruling party.

It has been known that in the past that heads of parastatals and agencies have made huge contributions to the campaign fund of the ruling party, either on their behalf or on behalf of their agencies.

With President Buhari’s demonstrated unwillingness to fund the APC from the national treasury, the ruling party will have to be creative in sourcing funds to run their campaigns. As of May last year, the APC was struggling for funds despite being in power for two years. The reasons were said to have been the disinterest the government at the centre had shown.

“At the time, there were issues like that,” Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State had admitted in May 2017.

“The APC expended almost N3 billion in the same year [2015]; almost a billion naira above what three opposition parties expended for the 2011 elections,” Country Representative of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Mr Adebowale Olorunmola, noted in his paper, Cost of Politics in Nigeria.

In 2019, the APC, as the ruling party, is expected to spend much more. And already the party has already budgeted N14billion for its 2019 campaigns.

The APC was more successful in raising funds from the masses through voucher cards and donations from mostly supporters of then candidate Buhari. And the party will hope to go the same route again.

The newly registered, or newly revived Social Democratic Party (SDP) is hoping to steal the thunder from the two preeminent parties with claims that about five governors and over 30 senators from other parties will defect and join its ranks, the party spokesman, Mr Alfa Mohammed, was reported as saying. If this happens, it would translate as a major morale boost and massive cash inflow for the party, putting it in a position to challenge the two major parties.

Already, former Minister Jerry Gana, who in the run up to the 2015 elections generated nothing less than N5billion for the PDP during its fund raising dinner, has emerged a stalwart for the SDP and will hope to do the same, if not more for the party.

Fund raising dinners have been the preferred method of the PDP, who ahead of the 2015 elections raised N21.27 billion in one night with significant donations from businessmen, public officials under the umbrella of the party and government agencies and parastatals.

With the massive losses the party suffered in 2015, it would be interesting to see how they will raise money this time.

Threat of the watchdogs

The chances of the opposition parties, especially to raise funds from donations are now threatened by the hounding presence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC)

With the advertised anti-corruption stance of the APC government and the hounding of suspected looters of public funds, the money bags will be keeping their cards and their monies close to their chest so as not to attract the attention of the watchdogs.

Multiple sources within the major political parties, APC, PDP and SDP who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday expressed fears that unlike past elections where huge sums of monies were realized through fund raising ceremonies, donations and other means, the anti-corruption posture of the current government coupled with the prevailing economic stringency may make it difficult for funds to be easily raised for elections and campaign purposes.

While the watchdogs may be selective in which direction they want to look, their roles according to the constitution are supposed to be really important ones, as Mr. Olorunmola noted in his paper.

“In Nigeria, the 1999 constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria specified in section 225 (1-6) conditions and scrutiny of the sources of funds and expenses of political parties. Section 225 (3)(a) and (b) as well as 225 (4) forbid political parties from foreign funding of any kind. Section 226 (1-3) demands annual reports of account from political parties. By extension, the Electoral Act (2010) stipulates the ceiling of expenses by candidates and political parties for specific elective positions. The maximum limits are pegged at: N1,000,000,000 (naira) for presidential candidates, N200,000,000 for governorship candidates, and N40,000,000 and N20,000,000 respectively for Senate and House of Representatives candidates,” he noted.

While the caps for spending for the various officer holders have been disregarded in the past, with parties and candidates exceeding these limits, chances are that this time, someone will be keeping a close eye on things.

Despite the legal provisions Mr. Olorunmola decries the lack of enforcement capacity of the authorities.

“These provisions are necessary to make certain that political parties and candidates are properly guided with regards to the scope of party and election funding and expenses. Additionally, putting a cap on expenses makes certain that the cost of politics remains reasonable and affordable so as to ensure qualitative and quantitative citizen participation. Available evidence which will be discussed subsequently, however, shows that despite these provisions, parties and candidates have continued to infringe on these regulations. Fundraising conducted ahead of the 2015 elections were done without regards to legal provisions. Campaign expenses, particularly of the two main presidential candidates, overshot the N1 billion limit.

“Money was illegally used to buy votes and permanent voters cards. State administrative resources were used by incumbent officials to facilitate party activities. Political party primaries became a cash affair to lead to the possible emergence of the highest bidders.

“Yet, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the regulatory body, is yet to investigate, prosecute and sanction erring parties and candidates for infringements. This has been the case since the transition [to civil rule].

He even went as far as indicting INEC for not enforcing this regulations, saying, “It has been more than a year after the 2015 elections, but there has been no investigation, arrest or prosecution of individuals for breaching campaign finance regulations, despite apparent occurrences. The PDP had donations running into several billions from serving governors, elected officials and party members. Corporate organisations donated funds to the party in breach of the law, but INEC failed to raise the red flag. Allegations that the APC’s presidential campaign was largely funded by outgoing governors, including those of Lagos and Rivers, are yet to be disproved. Obvious were the activities of the Transition Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), which contravened section 221 of the constitution prohibiting any association from canvassing for votes for any candidate or contributing to the funds and election expenses of political parties. TAN widely and openly displayed President Goodluck Jonathan’s pictures and posters to canvass support for him. TAN practically ran a parallel presidential campaign for President Jonathan without restraint.”

However, recently, INEC urged the EFCC to track the sources of funds spent by politicians and political parties in order to enforce the provisions of the Electoral Act on electioneering campaign funding.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who made the appeal while receiving the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, during a visit at the commission’s headquarters said this must be done to ensure election results are not determined by money spent by a candidate or party.

“The Electoral Act presents limit as to the amount parties and individuals can spend for election and also the amount that friends of candidates and parties can contribute in any election. I want the EFCC to uphold that mandate in every capacity to track and to trace sources of funds and to work closely with us. Our democracy can never be on sale and by working closely with the EFCC we can achieve that,” Yakubu said.

Economic woes spell doom for party funding

Coupled with these is the bad state of the Nigerian economy, which has been worsened by the fall in the price of crude oil at the international market. This has virtually affected the financial status of individual businessmen and corporate organizations that used to covertly or overtly provide huge sums of money for favoured politicians and political parties to bankroll their electioneering campaigns.

How parties would raise campaign funds

According to a party chieftain, politicking and electioneering campaigning require a lot of money which is why political parties invest heavily on rallies and face to face contacts with the electorate.

“The cost under this heading will include hiring large venues, public address systems, transport, and accommodation expenses, among others. Large expenses are also incurred in the print and electronic media to send out messages to the populace.

“In these days of the social media, expenditures are also incurred on that front. Again, resources are spent on campaign offices, billboards, posters, handbills, renting offices, campaign staff and logistics to reach out to the electorate. Even after the election results have been declared by the electoral umpire, election petitions go through the gamut of the courts and are usually fought on behalf of candidates by very senior and expensive to hire lawyers who earn very fat fees,” said the source.

‘APC will get funds through nomination fees, fund raising, others’

The  ruling APC, in a memo presented to the National Caucus on February 26, 2018 for approval, titled “Financial report for 2016, 2017 and Presentation of 2018 Budget to the National Caucus”, earmarked N14.82 Billion for 2018 budget because of the coming congresses/primaries, conventions, sensitization meetings and campaigns.

National Treasurer, Alh. Bala Mohammed Gwagwarwa, said the party would source the funds through nomination fees (N5.86 billion), fund rising (N3.45 billion), membership dues (N4.2 billion), sales of party cards (N1.0 billion) and levies on elected/appointed office holders (N0.304 billion).

The memo reads: “Looking ahead to 2018, which is an election year budget, a lot of activities ranging from organization of congresses/primaries, conventions, sensitization meetings and campaigns are expected. The budget must inevitably have to be robust, flexible and capable of being implemented. Bearing this in mind, a budget of N 14.82 Billion is being proposed.

“On the expenditure side, the major items are acquisition of national secretariat (N 1.96 Billion), conventions (N 1.3 billion), media/publicity (N1 billion), election expenses (NO.4 billion), vehicles (N.5 billion), grants to States/Zone (N.4 billion), membership registration (N.25 billion), women/youth activities (N.2 billion) and legal costs (N.2 billion), reimbursements to states and Zones (N2.48 billion), etc.”

The memo added, “In order to ensure funding stability and respectable budget implementation, membership contribution has been identified as crucial. Accordingly, a framework to deploy electronic payment system that assures convenience, transparency and ease of reconciliation of payment has been designed. This system allows the use of airtime to pay the monthly N100 membership dues by members while bigger payment can be transacted through banking channels customized for the party in all banks.

“This system has been substantially completed except the negotiation of the revenue sharing formula between the Party and the telecom companies whose platform will be used in collecting the payment and regulatory impediments by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)/ Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“Due to the difficulty the party is facing with the telecoms, we have additionally engaged SystemSpec (Remita) as an alternative channel for collection of dues and levies, which we hope will be launched soon.

“Based on membership strength of about 10 million and 35% success in collection of membership fees, we are confident that this system will assure sustainable funding for the Party.”

Speaking on the presidential campaign funds of President Buhari in 2015, a member of the APC, Mr Osita Okechukwu, recalled that both the rich and the poor contributed to his campaign fund, from that of 2003 to that of 2015.

Okechukwu, who is a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015, said while major aspirants were distributing $2,000, and N200,000 per delegate, Buhari had no N1,000 to dish out.

“We were visibly cold as we had no N1, 000 to dish out.

Then came his turn to address the delegates and he boldly told the delegates assembled that silver and gold he had none and even if he had, he wouldn’t give. Applause followed and he won by a landslide,” he said.

‘PDP will raise funds through legitimate means’

On its part, the opposition PDP said it would raise campaign funds through legitimate means. National Financial Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abdullahi Maibasira, said the party would also embark on issue-based and rigorous campaigns in order to reclaim power in 2019.

“We are guided by the laws of the land and all other enabling legislation that have to do with funding of political parties.

“Our primary source of raising funds is based on our enormous membership that the party enjoys across the country; payment of party dues on monthly or annual basis. Of course, we are also empowered to collect financial donations within the margin of the law from individuals and organizations. So these are basically, the sources that the party will be raising funds for the 2019 campaigns,” he said.

Though he gave no budgetary breakdown, Maibasira said the party also has a statutory National Financial Committee which is charged with the responsibility of raising funds, organising fund raising dinners and undertaking other fund-raising measures that can attract finance.

Asked whether the party would also depend on its governors for campaign financing, Maibasira said: “Every individual as far as you are a member of the party, you are  entitled to certain privileges and those privileges cut across board; whether they are your support to the party in financial terms or in terms of mobilization. In any form you have the right to vote and be voted for.”

Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that one of the strategic means through which the party raised its funds prior to the 2015 general elections was the fundraising dinner which took place at the Presidential Villa during the reign of President Goodluck Jonathan where the party raised  N21. 27 billion.

Then Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee, Prof. Gana later told newsmen in Abuja that the N21 billion was not only for the 2015 campaigns but that part of it would be used for the completion of the party’s secretariat located at the Central Business Distric of Abuja, which remains uncompleted today.

How APC, PDP spent money in 2015

A report, published by Compliance and Content Monitoring Ltd (CCM), put the combined spending of the PDP and the APC on political adverts alone at the sum of N3.23 billion on political campaign advertisements.

PDP’s spending was put at about N2.5 billion (77 per cent) while that of the APC was put at N728 million (23 per cent).

According to the report, the media advertisements were placed on radio, television, press and billboards for the PDP and the APC presidential campaigns between December 2014 and March 2015.

The report was said to have been unveiled after a thorough analysis of over 260 broadcast media (radio and television), 48 print (newspapers and magazines) media and over 1,000 outdoor billboards across the country.

The firm said it focused on the two main political parties, taking into cognizance the nation’s geographical zones, the advertising campaigns of the different political parties, individuals and groups in support of the presidential candidates.

Perhaps it was as a result of this huge investment in campaign financing that former President Jonathan, following his woeful defeat, reportedly asked the party (PDP) and government officials who had handled campaign funds to refund monies not spent, or those not judiciously expended.

While this aspects of the spending could be traced and roughly estimated, there is no record for the amount spent on underhand dealings, which are most likely far more than the traceable amounts. The two figures combined make politics in Nigeria a very expensive venture and with 2019 on the horizon, these cost could only get higher. And the strain on an already strained economy can only be imagined.   (Daily Trust)

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