Only five of the 29 political parties that participated in the 2015 general elections have submitted details of their election expenses to the Independent National Electoral Commission as required by law, THISDAY has learnt. The other24 parties, including the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, are in breach of the Electoral Act, which requires political parties to file the audited return of their poll expenditure with the commission within six months of an election.
A competent source at the INEC headquarters in Abuja said the Election and Political Parties Monitoring Committee of the commission would be holding a series of meetings from tomorrow to discuss issues relating to violations by the parties. The meetings would also review pending applications for registration of new political parties.
Section 92 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010, says, “Election expenses of a political party shall be submitted to the Commission in a separate audited return within six months after an election and such return shall be signed by the political party’s auditors and counter- signed by the Chairman of the party and be supported by a sworn affidavit by the signatories as to the correctness of its contents.”
The electoral law prescribes penalty for a breach of the above provision, thus, “Any political party which commits a breach of this section is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1, 000,000 and in the case of failure to submit an accurate audited return within the stipulated period, the court may also impose a maximum penalty of N200, 000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission.”
It was gathered that apart from APC and PDP, the 24 parties that failed to observe the law include All Progressives Grand Alliance, Labour Party, Alliance for Democracy, and Peoples Progressives Alliance.
The chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, told a quarterly interactive session for registered political parties in Abuja recently that of the 29 parties that took part in the 2015 general elections, only five had so far submitted their audited accounts.
Yakubu said, “Parties are expected to submit to the commission their election campaign expenses for the 2015 general elections but as we speak only five political parties are in compliance.
“While 24 other political parties did not comply, the case of 17 parties is understandable because they were registered after the general elections. But for (29) parties that contested the general elections, only five complied.”
Yakubu said INEC had written to the political parties to ask if there were issues that made them unable to submit audited accounts.
He listed other violations by the registered political parties to include lack of authentic names of members of National Executive Committee, improper documentation of party constitution, and absence of valid party national headquarter offices in Abuja.
According to the INEC boss, “The constitution is very clear on the processes and conditions for registration that must be complied with. Section 223 of the constitution talks about the validity of the composition of the political parties NEC.
“Unfortunately, out of the 46 registered political parties, only 28 parties are in compliance. Eighteen political parties have not complied.
“Section 222 of the constitution requires political parties to establish offices in the Federal Capital Territory but as we speak today, only 29 political parties are in compliance, while 17 political parties have not. So, we have 17 political parties that have no offices in FCT or their rents have expired ,which amounts to the same thing, not having office in FCT.”
INEC’s director in charge of the Voter Education and Publicity Department, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said that the commission was aware of the legal implications of such violations by the parties. Osaze-Uzzi, however, explained that the commission preferred to adopt a subtle approach by first embarking on sensitisation and capacity building for the political parties before eventually applying the law where necessary.
He did not name the five political parties that have complied with the financial regulation regarding election. Osaze-Uzzi said the commission had not yet authorised the issuance of such data, but he affirmed that those that had complied were not the big ones.
According to Osaze-Uzzi, “We are still looking at these issues and we will continue to engage the party leadership in sensitisation and capacity building programmes where we will encourage them to comply with the law.
“We will try to engage them to help build up capacities, but if after all these efforts they are unable to comply, then the commission will go ahead with the enforcement of the relevant laws.”
A source in one of the political parties, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak the press on the matter, told THISDAY that one of the reasons for the noncompliance with the requirement to file record of election expenses was the maximum limits of spending prescribed by the law. He revealed that most of the parties had exceeded the campaign spending provided for the various elective offices.
The Electoral Act prescribes a maximum of N1 billion for campaigning by presidential candidates, and N40 million for National Assembly contestants.
The source confirmed that PDP and APC were battling to fix their accounts before submission to INEC.