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CURTAILING THE COST OF OUR ELECTIONS

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Elections: NCWS decries poor emergence of women

The recent lamentation by a foremost human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, about how much the 2019 General Elections cost the country in monetary terms re-echoed the issue of the unnecessarily capital intensive nature of Nigeria’s electioneering campaigns and elections. According to Falana, “This country spent over N250 billion from public purse on this useless enterprise apart from what each of the governors and political parties spent, which is more than 250 billion”.

It is indeed important to look forward to further computations of additional data on how much state governors, political parties and their coterie of politicians and their associates spent in order to have a comprehensive figure of how deep the country’s treasury was criminally depleted.

The nexus of the lawyer’s intervention is the fact that the fund was drawn from public purse. We cannot agree less with the SAN’s outburst which described the elections as a “useless enterprise” because from all indications, public funds were illegally sank into the 2019 failed electoral project. The recent poll has been dubbed by many book makers as the worst in our march to virile democracy in our recent electoral history. Painfully, this is a vicious circle of our national democratic experience.

It is a “useless enterprise” because it is difficult to have good leaders and governance with perennially calloused elections.

We have repeatedly noted on this platform that, several civil society organisations have been raising alarms that the political parties and candidates in the country are spending too much money in excess of the spending limit as prescribed by the law. For instance, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), as well as others had condemned political parties that turned the recently concluded sale of expression of interest form for all who aspire to participate in the primaries into bazaar.

Quoting the position of the law on this matter, SERAP stated that, “According to Section 91(2) and 91(3) of the Electoral Act, the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential and governorship election shall be one billion naira only and two hundred million naira only respectively.

“Also, Section 91(4) of the Electoral Act states that the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate for a senatorial and House of Representatives election shall be N40m only and N20m only respectively.” Clearly, this has never been adhered to by Nigeria’s moneybags in the political arena and INEC does not show that it is the regulator.

Money politics is not healthy for our democracy. It corrupts practice of internal democracy in parties, bends rules, corrupts voters’ will and choice. It has adverse effects on post-election political and governance stability thereby making selfish consideration becomes the most important determinant of national interest.

That is why align with Falana’s position: “If we want to get out of the crisis of monumental dimension, we need to go back to the drawing table, beyond the two major political parties. Nigerians must organize because this expensive joke cannot continue.”

We therefore call on INEC to wake up to its regulatory responsibility by seriously enforcing electoral spending guidelines. We also call for a total overhauling of our electoral system in order to check vote buying, thuggery, ballot box snatching, the deployment of security agents before, during and after polls. Until we get our electoral system right, our elections will continue to remain a sequence of unprofitably useless enterprises.

QUOTE

Money politics is not healthy for our democracy. It corrupts practice of internal democracy in parties, bends rules, corrupts voters’ will and choice. It has adverse effects on post-election political and governance stability thereby making selfish consideration becomes the most important determinant of national interest… Until we get our electoral system right, our elections will continue to remain a sequence of unprofitably useless enterprises

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