By Vincent Ikuomola
ANTI-GRAFT agencies, financial institutions and other agengies have been urged by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to assist in tracking campaign finances of political parties and their candidates.
The agencies are: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Police and four other organisations.
Eze Onyekpere of the CSJ has been named to coordinate the committee of monitors.
The committee is expected to submit its report after six months.
A National Commissioner, Prof. Antonia Okosi-Simbine inaugurated the committee on behalf of the chairman of the commission.
The 10-member group is to monitor the spendiñg of all the candidates and political parties spending to ensure they don’t exceed the approved sealing.
Nigerians are expected to go to polls on February 16 for the presidential and National Assembly seats and March 2 for the state elections.
The tracking for campaign financing is expected to end on Saturday after the presidential and National Assembly polls. The curtain will drop on the state elections after the governorship and House of Assembly polls on March 2.
INEC had said that it will be monitoring the ongoing campaign by various political parties and candidates closely ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The campaign for the 2019 Presidential election officially commenced on November 13, 2018, as provided for by the Electoral Act.
The commission is empowered by Section 90 of Electoral Act, 2010 as amended to place a peg on campaign expenses.
Election expenses are incurred by political parties and their candidates within the period from the date notice is given by the commission to conduct an election.
Section 91 of the Electoral Act stipulates a maximum of N1 billion for presidential candidate. The governorship candidate cannot spend more than N200 million for campaign.
The maximum amount allowed for Senate and House of Representatives is N40 million and N20 million respectively.
The Act does not allow individual or entity to donate more than N1 million to any candidate.
The Act states: “A political party that incurs election expenses beyond the limit as stipulated in this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000.00 and a forfeiture to the commission of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the commission. The Electoral Act 2010 as amended also stipulated N1, 000,000,000.00 fine or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both as punishment for any individual that contravene the Act for the presidential and N600,000 for the senatorial election while, House of Representatives N500,000 or imprisonment N500,000.00For the governorship, it is N800,000.00 or imprisonment of nine months or both.”
The commission had in the past confronted by some challenges which had hindered its work. However, the commission said it was ready to wield the big stick on any party or candidate that contravenes the law.
Speaking during the inauguration of the inter-agency campaign finance monitoring group yesterday, INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Okosi – Simbina, said the report of the 2019 campaign finances will be release immediately after the election.
She said: “We will check newspapers avert, TV, Radio, billboard and we must see to the conclusion. Those who spent beyond what the legal frame work provided for or spent outrageously will have themselves to blame.
“Vote buying must be monitored too. And those reports must be published after the election. Unlike what happened in the past, six months will be late for the report. We will ensure compliance to the electoral act.”
She said all the 10 groups engaged for the tracking of the campaign finances will be working with the electoral finance and party monitoring department of INEC.
Also speaking, the Assistant Director, Campaign Finance Tracking Unit, Ishaq Garba Aliyu, said they recorded milestone in the 2015 campaign finance tracking, adding that they won’t leave chances in the 2019 election campaigns.
“We have built the capacity of the staff. They review the tracking forms to include separate forms for candidates and political parties. The tracking ends on the day of election,”Aliyu said.F