The chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu has decried the negative role of money in elections, saying its deployment destroys the basis of democratic elections.
Yakubu raised this concern at a “Stakeholders’ Summit on Addressing the Influence of Money in the 2023 General Elections” held in Abuja on Monday.
The INEC boss said, “It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections.
“Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering. Above all, the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a ‘win at all costs’ mentality among contestants, who would have invested a fortune in election.
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“Surely, election is not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion. But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years. Citizens’ choices must never be subverted by the negative use of money,” he said.
Meanwhile, ahead of next year’s general election, the 18 registered political parties in Nigeria have called out the state governors, accusing them of trying to sabotage the electoral process by stifling the opposition in their various states.
Also, a rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, asked security agencies to arrest and prosecute those he claimed are “anti-democratic forces” bent on truncating the 2023 elections.
This came as INEC, security and anti-graft agencies decried the high cost of politics in Nigeria and the ruinous influence of money on the nation’s democracy.
Some of the stakeholders at the event were the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu; Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba Alkali; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN; and Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa
Others were Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC; Director-General, Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, ARCON; Director-General, National Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU; Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC; INEC National Commissioners; representatives of various security and safety agencies; Chairman, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON; Chairman Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN; President, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ; representatives of financial institutions and leaders of civil society organisations, CSOs.
Sub-national entities rooting for sabotage
Speaking on behalf of the 18 registered political parties, Chairman of IPAC, Engr. Yabagi Sani, accused state governors of preventing the opposition from selling their manifestos to the state populace.
Sani noted that if money was allowed free rein in the elections, there is no guarantee that elections would be credible, transparent, acceptable, and rancor-free.
He said in the countdown to the 2023 elections, IPAC and a broad spectrum of concerned stakeholders had observed that if urgent and drastic steps were not taken, the elections would not be free, fair, and credible due to the negative influence of money in the electoral process.
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He said, “This palpable apprehension is derived from the emerging trend in the actions and utterances of chieftains of some candidates, who clearly are more powerful than the leadership of the political parties. This is evident right from the stage of the primary elections of the political parties and at campaign rallies over reports of the plans to deploy huge, illegitimate sums of money to influence the outcome of the elections.
“All factors considered, the nation will be at a crucial crossroads in its political history in 2023. The stakes are high because we have candidates who in their desperation to clinch power or to wrest it will go to any length disregarding sanity and the law in their bid to have their way.
“More than any other experience of elections that we have had, the 2023 elections come with a demand that all care and precaution must be taken in order to avoid rocking the boat of democracy.
“Section 91(4) of the act states that no registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate should be prevented from holding rallies, processions or meetings at any time for political purposes.
“Governors are, however, stopping opposition parties from campaigning by imposing prohibitive fees for access to campaign venues, placing of campaign posters and erection of billboards. This is happening in many states as I speak here. These undemocratic and illegal actions by elected state actors create a situation where the use of money and incumbency factors are used to subvert the wishes of the electorate,” he stated.