The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has inaugurated an inter-agency campaign finance monitoring group ahead of the general election.
The group will partner with the commission’s election and party finance monitoring department.
A national commissioner, Antonia Okosi-Simbine, inaugurated the committee on behalf of the chairman of the commission.
Members of the new group include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) and Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).
Others are the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC).
The 10-member group is to monitor the source of funding and spending of all the candidates and political parties to ensure they do not exceed the approved ceiling.
According to the Constitution of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA1990 as amended), Political Party Finance Manual 2017 and Guidelines and Regulations for Political Parties 2015, the commission is required to track and report political parties’ campaign finance.
In 2015 the commission made efforts to track campaign finances but faced challenges.
Some of the challenges were: insufficient manpower, lack of adequate information from political parties/candidates, almost absolute refusal or ignorance of candidates to complete and return tracking forms and reluctance on the part of the media to provide relevant information, and unrealistic campaign expense limitation.
The group will be headed by Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice.
It is expected to submit its report after six months.
Meanwhile, the commission said the tracking of campaign financing is expected to end on the date for both the presidential and governorship election.
The campaign for the 2019 presidential election officially commenced on November 13, 2018.
Section 91 of the electoral Act stipulated a maximum of N1 billion for presidential candidate. Candidates for governorship seat cannot spend more than N200 million for their campaign.
The maximum amount allowed for Senate and House of Representatives is N40 million and N20 million respectively.
The Act does not allow individuals to donate more than N1 million to any candidate.
A political party that incurs election expenses beyond the limit stipulated in this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1 million and forfeiture to the commission of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the commission.
The Electoral Act 2010, as amended, also stipulates N1 million fine or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both as punishment for any individual that contravened the Act for the presidential expenses; N600,000 for the senatorial election while for House of Representatives, N500,000 or imprisonment.
For the governorship, it is N800, 000.00 or imprisonment of nine months or both.
INEC said it hopes to release the report of the 2019 campaign finances immediately after the election.
“We will check newspapers advertisements, TV, Radio, billboard and we must see to the conclusion. Those who spent beyond what the legal framework provided for or spent outrageously will have themselves to blame,” the official said.
“Those reports must be published after the election. Unlike what happened in the past, six months will be late for the report. We will ensure compliance with the electoral act.”
Also speaking at the event, an assistant director, Campaign Finance Tracking Unit, Ishaq Aliyu, said they recorded a milestone in the 2015 campaign finance tracking but there is need to do more during the 2019 election.
“We have built the capacity of the staff. They review the tracking forms to include separate forms for candidates and political parties. The tracking ends on the day of the election,” Mr Aliyu said.