The National Assembly (NASS) has reviewed the amount a sponsor can donate to a party and how much a political party can spend on a candidate’s electioneering in the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill presently before it.
This is just as the National Assembly is ‘cleaning up’ the electoral bill before transmitting it to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the second time, it was reliably learnt on Saturday.
In the bill that is scheduled for transmission to the President for assent anytime from now, the Independent National Electoral Commission is empowered to set ceilings for donations and expenses by donors, sponsors, candidates and political parties for electioneering under Section 90 titled, ‘Power to Limit Contribution to a Political Party’.
The new Section 90 of the Act reads, “(1) The commission shall have power to place limitations on the amount of money or other assets, which an individual can contribute to a political party or candidate, and demand such information on the amount donated and source of the funds.
“(2) Any individual, candidate or political party, who exceeds the limit placed by the commission in subsection (1), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to (a) in case of a political party, a fine not more than N10, 000,000.00 and forfeiture of the amount donated; and (b) in case of an individual, a fine of five times the amount donated in excess of the limit placed by the commission.”
The current Section 91 of the Electoral Act, 2010, titled, ‘Limitation on Election Expenses’, prescribes that the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in a presidential election shall be N1bn; governorship election, N200m; Senate and House of Representatives membership election seats, N40m and N20m, respectively; state House of Assembly membership election, N10m; chairmanship election for a local government area or area council, N10m; and councillorship election in an LGA or area council, N1m.
However, the National Assembly has raised the figures by about 500 per cent, especially for the presidential election.
Clause 91 of the new electoral bill reads, “(1) Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsections (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) and (7).
“(2) The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall not exceed N5, 000,000,000.00.
“(3) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of the governorship election shall not exceed N1, 000,000,000.00.
“(4) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of senatorial and House of Representatives seats shall not exceed N100, 000,000.00 and N70, 000,000.00 respectively.”
“(5) In the case of the state Assembly election, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30, 000,000.00.
“(6) In the case of a chairmanship election to an area council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30, 000,000.00.
“(7) In the case of councillorship election to an area council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N5, 000,000.00.”
The National Assembly also raised the fines and jail terms prescribed for individuals, groups or organisations, who flout the proposed law.
Lawmakers raise individual donation from N1m to N50m
In the current Act, Section 91 prescribes, “(9) No individual or other entity shall donate more than N1, 000,000.00 to any candidate.
“(10) A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section commits an offence and on conviction shall be liable in the case of (a) presidential election to a maximum fine of N1,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both; (b) a governorship election to a fine of N800,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both; (c) senatorial election to a fine of N600,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of six months or both; (d) House of Representatives election to a fine of N500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five months or both;
“(e) A state House of Assembly election to a fine of N300, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of three months or both; (f) in the case of chairmanship, to a fine of N300, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of three months or both; and (g) councillorship election, to a fine of N100, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of one month or both.”
Section 11 prescribes a maximum fine of N500, 000 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both for any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of Subsection 9, upon conviction.
Section 12 further prescribes, “An accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the breach of the provision of this section of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction for imprisonment for a term of 10 years.”
However, the electoral bill raised individual donations from N1m to N50m in Clause 91 (9).
The amended Section 91 reads, “(9) No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N50, 000,000.00.”
On contravention of the proposed law, the section further reads, “(10) A candidate, who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this bill, or imprisonment for a term not more than 12 months, or both.
“(11) Any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both.
“(12) An accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the contravention of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N3, 000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly was still proofreading the bill as of Friday.
A senior official of the National Assembly disclosed that after the political arm of the parliament – the Senate and the House of Representatives – amended the bill, the bureaucratic arm was proofreading the legislation before it would be transmitted to the President.
The source disclosed that the National Assembly was being careful about the bill to prevent another rejection by Buhari.
According to the official, the parliament is especially working on the issues raised by some civil society organisations recently.
A coalition of 12 civil society organisations on December 30, 2021, said its review of the electoral bill had led to the discovery of cross-referencing errors in five sections and grammatical errors in two sections.
Also discovered were duplicate provisions in three sections and conflicting provisions in one section of the bill.
They, therefore, called on the National Assembly to carry out a comprehensive review of the bill to ensure that all editorial, drafting and cross-referencing gaps were addressed since the President had declined his assent to it earlier.
The CSOs comprised Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre, Centre for Citizens with Disability, The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation and the Institute for Media and Society.
Others are the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Partners for Electoral Reform, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and the Nigerian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations.
Speaking to our correspondent, the official said, “That bill deserves a thorough clean-up, so we are taking time to do just that after which it will be transmitted. We are trying to prevent any error that may warrant the President declining assent to the bill. We are taking our time to cross the ‘T’s and dot the ‘I’s.”
The National Assembly had last Tuesday amended the bill for the second time by concurring on consensus candidacy and setting fresh conditions for political parties in the nomination of candidates for elections.
The President had vetoed the electoral bill and sent it back to the National Assembly over the restriction of political parties to direct primary, insisting on the direct and indirect as well as the consensus options.
The House had amended Clause 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which is Clause 84 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, by inserting the indirect primary option.
The Senate, however, not only added indirect primary, but also consensus adoption of candidates for elections by a political party.
By passing different amendments to the bill, the Senate and the House will have to refer the versions to a conference committee to harmonise the differences and report back for final passage and transmission to the President for assent.
However, both the Senate and the House of Representatives took a shorter route by rescinding their decisions on the amendments last week and re-amending the electoral bill.
This time, the House concurred with the Senate on the consensus, while both chambers passed the same conditions set for the option