•How to track, report political campaign funding –Experts
By Simeon Mpamugoh
A one-day workshop was recently held for journalists and members of civil society organisations in Lagos.
The workshop, which was to train journalists and members of civil society organisations on how to monitor and report funding of political campaigns in Nigeria, was held at the Centre for Constitutional Governance Training Hall (CCG), Ilupeju, Lagos. It was organised by One Voice in collaboration with Independent Advocacy Project (IAP) and The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS).
The training, it was gathered, was aimed at consolidating and communicating policy positions of key political actors on political finance challenges and ensure that civil society groups partner, network and form alliance with the Nigerian media to compel the National Assembly to initiate the necessary reforms.
“As journalists, it is expected that through this interactive training, you will learn and be informed on the evils and consequences associated with corruption of the electoral system through political finance that rears its ugly head from illegal sources of campaign funds to reckless looting of state treasury and money laundering from proceeds of crimes. These tilt the election outcomes in favour of the political parties or candidates with big cash deployed to influence electoral officials, law enforcement agents and voters, such that the best and most credible candidates are not elected, thus making the country to lose some of its best leaders.” These were the words of the Executive Director, IAP and Chair, One Voice Media Committee, Pastor Adedeji Adeleye, as he gave his keynote address to participants at the workshop.
Adeleye, who anchored his address on Political Finance Transparency and Accountability Project at the workshop observed that for several years, there had been a debate in Nigeria and other democracies on what constitutes political finance. He noted that the tone and nuance of the debate differ from one country to another, informing that each country had its distinct peculiarities.
He noted that advocates of the project had sought to locate the debate within the framework of the 2011 electoral laws as amended, international and regional anti-corruption instruments, such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
He told participants that Nigeria’s peculiar experience was a growing deficit of trust in political actors and processes with respect to political finance, especially against the backdrop of various looting of state treasury and diversion of same to fund election campaigns.
He said: “Nigerian citizens, particularly civil society organisations and non-state actors are demanding for more transparency and accountability in public life. There are concerns on risks to the independence of political actors, including elected officials and public office holders as well as conflicts of interest, undue influence, and corruption related to money in the political arena.”
He revealed that findings by the Nigerian civil society showed that at the grand political corruption lay high-level opaque political finance that not only inhibited economic growth and development but also took away from the electorate the right to freely choose who govern them.
“The role of donors raises concerns over the operation of representative government. The world Bank has identified ‘illegal political finance’ as one of the six dimensions of ‘state capture phenomenon,’ and those seeking to implement anti-corruption reforms cannot ignore the control of flows of money into and out of politics, and this presents specific problems for Nigeria’s democracy in that it fails to provide a framework in which candidates and political parties can compete on equal terms. This is what the project wants to illuminate on political financing,” he added.
In his contribution on Campaign Finance, Mr. Edatean Ojo of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), defined campaign finance, as funds used for promoting political parties and or candidates in elections, adding that campaign finance equally covered funds for political party activities and the organisation of political parties. “The concept is also referred to as political finance or party finance,” he added.
Ojo informed participants that there were efforts in countries all over the world to regulate campaign finance. He said there were two major components of such regulations, including placing caps on how much individuals and corporate entities could contribute to a political party or a candidate in an election and how much a political party or a candidate in an election could spend in canvassing for votes. He added that these efforts were capable of curtailing the influence of money in the electoral process.
He said there were a number of considerations behind such regulations, including the widespread public perception that campaign contributors usually expect undue favours from those they, the contributors, had supported should their campaigns be successful and that such favours were often illegitimate.
He identified such favours in the Nigerian context to include public office holders awarding huge contracts to their benefactors, passing certain laws which would favour them, and repealing same or defeating legislative proposals which could harm the interest of their benefactors, and the appointment of specific individuals chosen or favoured by their benefactors to certain public offices.
He told participants, “Campaign contributions are often viewed as enabling political corruption or bribery. It has become a major avenue for money laundering; hiding money obtained through illicit means otherwise referred to as proceeds from crime, looted funds, money from drug trafficking, oil bunkering, and other illegitimate sources.
“There are equally many models in different parts of the world on how governments fund political parties as well as what types of donations to political parties, candidates and campaigns are allowed or acceptable,” he added.
Ojo disclosed that the Electoral Act sought to regulate both campaign contributions and campaign spending adding that the Act created a number of offences in relation to the finances of political parties and if the provisions in the Act were rigorously implemented, it will result in reduction of the effect of money in politics and political corruption.
He noted that the regulations were in place but their impact was hardly felt, adding that the main challenge had been compliance and enforcement. “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has proved itself incapable of enforcing compliance with the regulation or performing its functions under the Electoral Act. The responsibility now falls on the media to ensure compliance in line with its right and duty to cover these issues and draw attention to them as established in its frameworks; the social responsibility theory, 1999 constitution, international human rights instruments and Freedom of Information (FoI) Act,” Ojo charged.
One of the participants and Staff Attorney, Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP) Okpe Ugochi Mercy noted that levels of compliance were improving as there were hundred of cases in the courts.
The workshop later dissolved into other interactive segments where it x-rayed the gender dimension of political finance, history of political finance and what world leaders say about political finance. There was also a questions and answer session.