The first part of this discourse analysed the challenges of campaign finance management in Nigerian elections. The extant discourse will focus on possible recommendations to solve the challenges identified earlier. It employs the mischief rule approach by posing positions that will suppress the mischief in existing law and practice whilst advancing remedies. There will be solutions directed at the legislative function, the electoral umpire function, political parties and finally to the civil society.
First, let us discuss the legislative remedies that need the attention of the National Assembly. The ceilings for all categories of candidates should be upwardly reviewed. This is based on observed and necessary expenses needed to mount a viable electoral campaign. It is also based on prevailing macroeconomic conditions which have led to the erosion of the value of the naira when compared to its value at the time the law was made in 2010. The review should not be contained in the body of the Electoral Act. Rather, the Act should be amended and the power to determine the ceiling across all the elections given to the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission. This power will be exercised from time to time based on changes in the economy, especially the macroeconomic indicators, after consultation with relevant stakeholders and the public. The stakeholders will include the political parties, campaign organisations, Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, security agencies and civil society (NGOs, media, academics, professional associations, etc.) working in the field of elections.
The financial ceilings should be based on empirical evidence including the number of voters to be reached, land area, cost of media, transport, venues and others reasonable expenses needed to mount a reasonable campaign. Essentially, INEC in consultation with stakeholders should work out reasonable campaign finance costs needed to run a good campaign as a basis for fixing the ceiling. The reviewed ceilings should be universal and cover expenses from the candidate and the political party. Third party expenditure for candidates should also be guided by the expenditure ceiling on individual donations to candidates. To ensure that all expenses are captured and reported to the electoral umpire and considering the difficulty of monitoring media expenditure, print and electronic media houses should be placed under legal obligation to report the cost of all campaign advertisements placed with them to INEC and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.
Penalties for spending in excess of the ceiling should be increased to not less than a fine of 50 per cent of the value of the excess expenditure and the terms of imprisonment
should be increased to not less than four calendar years. It should also include debarment from participation in politics for a period of not less than four years. This is the only way to ensure that candidates become more serious and respect campaign finance laws and regulations. Also, donations to candidates and political parties should be made tax deductible up to a maximum limit of the ceiling for individual donations to candidates. The Electoral Act should provide for compulsory collaboration between government agencies such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, INEC and the anti-corruption agencies to determine the source of funds donated to candidates and political parties. Also, the FIRS should be under obligation to follow up donors to verify their tax payments to the treasury.
A new agency should be established specifically to oversight campaign finance and state administrative resource issues or in the alternative INEC, is specifically strengthened with proactive powers to inter alia: Seize funds deployed in contravention of the law and guidelines; demand and receive from candidates and parties the market value of state resources such as cars and aircrafts deployed to campaigns. INEC should also be empowered to approach the courts ex-parte supported by an affidavit to get “cease orders” to individuals and organisations who violate the law with impunity; get “cease orders” binding candidates and political parties who continue to violate the law and guidelines. In extreme cases of serial contraventions, to get courts to disqualify candidates and parties who violate laid down regulations and generally to enforce campaign finance and SARs provisions of the law. Funding for the new body or the strengthening of INEC should come from a fixed percentage of the sums realised by political parties from expression of interest to contest and purchase of forms by candidates across all the political parties and other innovative funding mechanisms that do not burden the treasury.
Further, the law should prohibit the abuse of fiscal resources through the increase in remuneration and wage increments by incumbents within six months to any scheduled election. Also, specific penalties should be provided for abuse of state administrative resources.
The second set of recommendations is to INEC. In consultation with the political parties and stakeholders, it should delimit the amount of money an individual or organisation can donate to a political party. The Guidelines requiring the candidate’s reporting of their campaign expenditure should provide for cash, paper and banking trail which would facilitate reporting by candidates and monitoring by INEC to determine the accuracy of the candidate’s reports. All campaign income should be domiciled in a specific bank account, of which its details will be given to INEC within seven days of the emergence of the candidate. All campaign expenses in excess of N50,000 (or any higher sums as INEC may from time to time determine) should also be made from the same account by cheque and bank transfers. INEC should also collaborate with civil society, political parties and other stakeholders to review the Electoral Act and extant guidelines.
The third set of recommendations goes to political parties. They should take steps to ensure full compliance with extant provisions of the law and campaign finance guidelines and rules of INEC. Parties should reform their campaign finance rules to ensure that all party members begin to subscribe and pay membership dues and levies whilst re-organising the party secretariats to ensure reach out to all members of the party and updates on the management of the finances of the party. Also, they should engage in in-depth studies and analysis of party’s deployment of campaign finance and the use of SARs as a basis to engage INEC and the legislature and sensitise members on the campaign finance and state administrative resource rules.
The last and final set of recommendations goes to my constituency. It needs to be affirmed that monitoring political finance is not a one off event but a continuous exercise which links election expenditure and resources to governance. Continued monitoring and reporting on campaign finance is imperative. The civil society should conduct in-depth studies and research on contributions of notable individuals and organisations to campaign funds of executive and legislative officials and their links to public procurement, privileges, patronage, legislation and corruption in governance. They should initiate dialogue, consultations and prepare drafts for the amendment of existing legislation. Specifically, for the media, raising awareness, agenda setting, etc., are still needed because political finance is yet to occupy its place in the front burner of national discourse. Finally, the church and the mosque and all religious organisations should enhance their teaching and education on moral re-armament as it relates to campaign finance.