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Flush out slush funds

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•INEC, EFCC, ICPC should check illegal fund raising by political parties

The call on the anti-corruption agencies, the electoral commission and law enforcement bodies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities deserve the support of all lovers of democracy. As the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ) put it, politicians and political parties have flagrantly violated laws of the land on how funds may be sourced for election purposes, while the institutions of state saddled with the task of ensuring that donations of public and private funds are duly scrutinised are doing little in this regard.

At a time when the source of funding terrorism is receiving international attention, the motive for the laws in Nigeria should be better appreciated and enforced. Section 224 of the 1999 Constitution gives the responsibility for monitoring the parties’ finances to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The commission is expected to demand annually audited reports of the accounts of the parties showing the receipts and expenditure. This provision has been consistently violated and no penalty applied.

This might have informed the impunity that has attended parties’ and candidates’ fund-raising activities in the past few months. State governments have been donating public funds without due regard for ethical consideration and legal provision. At a dinner to raise funds for the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan late last year, the 21 states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) donated more than one billion Naira.

It is unfortunate too, that private firms were encouraged to flout the laws. Unnamed Oil and Gas sector players were said to have contributed five billion Naira to the campaign, while those in Real Estate and Building donated N4 billion; Transport and Aviation, N1 billion; Food and Agriculture, N500 million; Power, N500 million; Construction, N310 million; Road Construction, N250 million. All were anonymous donations.

Section 93 of the Electoral Act makes it illegal for political parties to accept or keep anonymous donations in cash or kind. Equally, as assigned by the Electoral Act, INEC had, in 2013, issued Guidelines and Regulations guiding the conduct or political parties and candidates in elections. The 2015 general election is the first opportunity to test the will of the commission to apply and enforce the rules. It has also failed in applying S.14 of the guidelines.

Private firms that have donated to political cause are not only in violation of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, but the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). This is where the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has also failed to apply the hammer. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), another regulatory authority in the financial sector, has chosen to look the other way.

If Nigeria must develop, laws, rules and regulations must be applied scrupulously. The law is put in place to ensure that public fund is judiciously expended and the weak protected. When a political party in power feels it could dip hands in the till at will, others that may not control the public structure would be put at undue advantage.

We join CENSOJ in calling on the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, the CBN and SEC to swing into action immediately to arrest this ugly trend.

Source: The Nation

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