United Global Resolve For Peace Vows To Seek Judicial Interpretation Of Law Guiding Campaign Funding

By John Kayode

As campaign for the 2023 general elections draw nearer, a civil Society Organisation, United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP) has vowed to approach court of law to seek an interpretation on the law guiding campaign funding.

“The Chairman of the Non Governmental Organization,  Shalom Olaseni in a statement signed and made available to newsmen in Akure said: “In the interim ,that the  organization is inviting further public opinion and thought on the matter.”

“The statement unedited: “By the 28th of September, 2022, the ban on outright/open campaign will, by statutory ordinance, be lifted. While several campaign issues will be on the front burner of public discourse and engagement, the United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP) evinces a heated if not divisive inter-party confrontation on the issue of campaign funding.”

“Habitually, campaign finance reform only enjoy perfunctory mention as parties and candidates often gravitate to other pressing matters on the electoral trail with little or no critical eye or on the issue of campaign financing.”

“However, with growing diaspora and foreign interest in next year’s election, parties, candidates, the electorates and INEC suddenly find selves combing the fine print for guidance on the legal boundaries of same. We shall attempt to lay out therefore and, without prejudice to judicial interpretation, guiding statutes and conventions that hopefully enriches further productive discourse on the matter with a view to birthing a resolution.”

“Campaign finance laws regulate aspects like sourcing, expenditure, disclosure, penalties and enforcement. The main purpose of regulating campaign finance is to ensure transparency in how money is raised and spent during election campaigns, stop corrupt practices, limit the impact of money on the electoral process and install all-round decency in the electoral process.”

“The governing laws on campaign financing in Nigeria are majorly found in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act (2022).”

“The express provision of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, according to Section 225 (3) (a) and (b), is that no political party can hold or possess any funds or other assets outside Nigeria. No political party is entitled to retain any funds or assets sent to it from outside Nigeria.”

“The CFRN also places an obligation on political parties to remit funds or assets sourced from outside Nigeria to INEC within twenty-one (21) days of receipt.”

” Section 85 of the Electoral Act (2022) makes the contravention of Section 225(3)(a)(b) of the CFRN an offence which upon conviction makes such funds or assets liable to forfeiture to INEC and the political party involved liable to a fine of at least Five Million Naira (N5,000,000.00).”

“The above stated provisions generally prohibit political parties from sourcing for funds “from outside Nigeria” – this seems wide enough to include Nigerians in diaspora. What this means is that Nigerian campaign finance laws prohibit donations from Nigerians in diaspora to a political party in Nigeria.”

“There is, however, controversy on whether it is the candidate or the political party that is prohibited from retaining such funds or assets. Quite notably, there is no express constitutional or statutory provision prohibiting candidates (as the relevant statutes clearly state ‘parties’ ‘not ‘candidates’) from receiving funds and assets from outside Nigeria – this includes from Nigerians in diaspora.”

“The controversy, however, lays in agreeing on the intended mischief which the law-makers sought to cure and this has led to divergent views on the interpretation of Section 225(3)(a)&(b) of the CFRN and other statutes incidental thereto. These divergent views are held in two broad groups: those who speak for, and those who have taken a stand against diaspora funding of a campaign either directly through the party or the candidate.”

“The first group argue, inter alia, that, the law could not have intended to prevent Nigerians from contributing to the political development of their country even while in the diaspora and that same can be done through the candidate and not the party subject to the donor caps set out in Nigerian electoral laws. More so, it is argued that the law is clear and unambiguous in its provisions which contain no express ban on a candidate, not a party, receiving diaspora funding from fellow Nigerians.”

“The second group contend, however, that considering all votes belong to a political party as held by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Amaechi v. Celestine Omehia, and it is the political party that is elected into power, not the individual, therefore the individuals are representatives of the party.”

 “And if this is so, then whatever a candidate does, he does so on behalf of his political party including the receipt of money meant for campaigns. This would further mean that where a candidate contravenes the law in furtherance of the objective of a political party that he represents, the political party is also guilty of such contravention.”

“Considering the divergent legal opinions, there is a need therefore to seek the knowledge of the courts in this regard. There is a need for the interpretation of the provisions of the law for a better understanding of the spirit of the law.”

“The United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP) in line with its policy direction and objectives for peace, good governance and the resolution of knotty conflicts in the eco-political space will be approaching the court to seek an interpretation of our electoral laws highlighted above as they dwell on the matter of campaign funding.”

“We are, in the interim, inviting further public opinion and thoughts on the need-fulness, morality or the lack there of, and the legality or illegality of diaspora funding of campaigns in Nigeria.”

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