Transparency International in Nigeria has raised the alarm over the diversion of public funds for the purchase of party forms through support groups for politicians.
The trend of groups purchasing forms for aspirants began in 2018 when the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network purchased the N45m presidential form of the All Progressives Congress for the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who was then aspiring to pick the party’s presidential ticket.
Several groups also bought the N20m form for the seven aspirants vying for the national chairmanship of the APC in March. The aspirants are Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, Senator George Akume, Senator Sani Musa; former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; Mallam Salihu Mustapha and 37-year-old Muhammed Etsu.
Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, which is TI’s chapter in Nigeria, said this new form of “shadow financing” was nothing short of money laundering.
Responding to a question, Rafsanjani said the way forms were being bought was the same way votes would be bought before and during elections.
“What we are seeing is the preamble to vote-buying. It is shadow financing and the whole process is being stage-managed. These are illicit financial flows. Public funds are being funneled through these so-called groups to buy forms for aspirants,” he stated.
Rafsanjani stated that in some instances, godfathers procure forms for aspirants in order to get rewarded with public funds after elections.
The anti-corruption crusader said it was wrong of any group to buy forms for anyone who was not willing to contest, adding that nobody should be cajoled or compelled to govern Nigeria.
Supporters splash over N1.5bn on forms
Meanwhile, Sunday PUNCH learnt that at least N1.5bn had been splashed on the purchase of forms by unregistered support groups.
While the APC pegged its governorship forms at N50m and presidential forms at N100m, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party is selling its presidential form for N40m, while governorship forms are put at N21m.
In the PDP, the presidential aspirants, who obtained forms through support groups include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; former governor Peter Obi; ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed.
Others who received forms from groups are Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Udom Emmanuel; and a former Senate President Pius Anyim.
In the APC, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, received the N100m forms from a group, while a support group also purchased the forms for Imo-West lawmaker, Senator Rochas Okorocha.
Though a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, reportedly purchased the presidential forms on his own, they were retrieved by a delegation led by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and a member of the House of Representatives, Abiodun Faleke.
Another group known as Businessmen for Osinbajo, had, two weeks ago, said that it was ready to purchase the nomination and expression of interest forms for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, while some supporters of a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.), have also expressed readiness to buy the N100m forms for him.
At the state level, a group purchased the N50m APC governorship forms for Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum; Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State also received the forms from his supporters. Sagir Bafarawa, a Sokoto State governorship aspirant in the PDP received the N21m forms from a coalition of 25 groups.
In Zamfara State, supporters purchased the N21m PDP governorship form for Abubakar Sagir, while in Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong was given the N20m APC senatorial form by supporters. In Borno States some constituents in the Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency procured the N10m APC form for Muktar Betara to re-contest his House of Representatives seat.
The Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, got his form from a coalition of groups, including the Gamzaki Traders Association, Gaskiya Youths Forum, PDP Coalition Support Group, ATM Adamawa Agenda, Nigeria Union of Teachers, labour unions, Fintiri Continuity, and Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers, among others.
In Delta State, the Isoko/Urhobo Unity Forum, in conjunction with the Youth Arise Together and Committee of Friends purchased and presented the governorship nomination and expression of interest forms to the Managing Director/CEO, WELLMAN Group of Companies, Chris Iyovwaye.
A Zamfara-based group purchased the PDP nomination and expression of interest forms for a governorship aspirant, Abubakar Gusau.
The Ekeremor Local Government Area PDP leaders and stakeholders raised N10m to purchase senatorial nomination forms for a former Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State was presented with the expression of interest and nomination forms by elders from the Masev, Ihyarev and Nongov Development Association, who paid and collected the forms for him to contest the Benue North-West Senatorial seat.
We can’t monitor aspirants’ funding – INEC
Section 87(1) of the newly signed Electoral Act says the Independent National Electoral Commission shall have powers to place limitations on the amount of money or other assets, which an individual can contribute to a political party or candidate, and also has powers to demand such information on the amount donated and the source of the funds.
The Act also states that no individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N50m.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission did not have the responsibility of monitoring how funds were being spent.
Oyekanmi stated that it was not INEC’s job to check the sources of an aspirant’s funding, adding that the commission would only step in after a candidate had emerged.
Oyekanmi noted that registered political parties were expected to submit to the commission a detailed annual statement of assets and liabilities and an analysis of their sources of funds and other assets, together with their expenditure, including hard and soft copies of the list of their members.
“Political parties are also not allowed to possess any funds outside Nigeria as this constitutes an offence under Section 225(3)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“A political party that commits this offence shall, on conviction, forfeit the funds or assets purchased with such funds to INEC, and may in addition, be liable to a fine of N5m,” he said.
The spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to an inquiry on Friday.