The issue of monitoring campaign funding and spending has pitched the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against each other.
While the electoral umpire said yesterday that its decision to beam its searchlights on campaign spending by political parties and their candidates was not one-sided, the PDP has expressed fear that INEC could hide under the cover of campaign funds monitoring to do the bidding of the governing All Progressives Party (APC).
The PDP has, therefore, warned the commission against using the exercise as a tool to witch-hunt the party.
But the commission has insisted that it is only carrying out its constitutional functions and not targeting any political party.
INEC chairman’s chief press secretary, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, while responding to inquiries yesterday, refuted the allegations that its monitoring of campaign spending was targeted at a particular political party.
“That is not correct,” Oyekanmi said, referring to allegations that the commission’s monitoring of campaign expenses is targeted at the PDP.
“The commission does not deliberately target any political party in carrying out its constitutional duties; not at all.
“The commission does not have to prove its neutrality. It is visible in its policies, which are always guided by the extant laws. Every action taken by INEC can be interrogated and put to the test. We have nothing to hide.”
He enjoined Nigerians to continue to support the commission’s bid to organise a free, fair and credible general election in 2019, and to ignore baseless allegations against the electoral body.
“They should be wary of spurious allegations against INEC and reject any false alarm that is intended to divide rather than unite the country,” Oyekanmi said.
The PDP had yesterday cautioned INEC not to become an agent of witch-hunt for the APC as it embarks on its role of monitoring the campaign funding and spending of political parties.
The opposition party urged the electoral commission to adhere strictly to the laws and guidelines in carrying out its responsibility of monitoring campaign spending.
PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, made this statement while reacting to INEC’s declaration that it would beam its searchlights on campaign funding and spending of political parties in conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ologbondiyan said, “INEC must carry out its responsibility in a manner that the opposition parties will not see it as being used by the ruling party for the purposes of witch-hunt. The rules are very clear about the responsibility of INEC as it concerns party funding.
“So the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, must ensure that its commission abides strictly by their rules, not for it to be used as an agent to witch hunt political parties.
“If it is to follow the rules of expenditure and spending during the election, it has its power, but that power must not be used in a manner that demonstrates that it has become a tool in the hands of a ruling government to witch-hunt the opposition political parties.”
A sister publication, LEADERSHIP Sunday, had exclusively reported that the electoral body had affirmed that it was collaborating with the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies to check into line politicians and political parties who may want to breach the laws guiding campaign funding and spending.
According to the guidelines, the maximum expenditure by presidential candidates is N1 billion while that of governorship candidates is N200 million.
Also, senatorial and House of Representatives candidates are not supposed to spend beyond N40 million and N20 million respectively.
“The law also makes it clear that no individual, or any other entity for that matter, shall donate more than N1 million to any candidate. The law prescribes stiff penalties for any breach,” Oyekanmi added.
According to him, Section 91 of the Electoral Act made clear provisions about INEC’s power to monitor campaign funding.
INEC had disclosed that its officials were already working in all its offices in the country and at its headquarters in Abuja to monitor the spending activities of candidates and would apply sanctions on any candidate that violates the electoral act on campaign spending.
“The commission is always monitoring the activities of all political parties. There is a Department of Election and Party Monitoring. It is their primary responsibility to carry out this activity. And as you know, INEC has offices and staff in all states and local government areas of the country. There are also additional measures that the commission can employ to do the needful when the need arises,” Oyekanmi said.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had earlier said that all bank transactions would be monitored and suspicious transactions investigated.
Magu, who revealed this recently during an interactive section in Abuja, cautioned politicians against reckless spending and bribery, stressing that the EFCC would partner with INEC to address the rising cases of vote-buying.
“We will bring banks and other collaborators to book. We will monitor how monies are withdrawn from the banks. We will start this from a month or two from the general elections, for unusual withdrawal of cash,” he had said