By Okoi Obono-Obla
I reacted abruptly with indignation yesterday (21stDecember, 2014) on my face book wall when I read on the Punch Newspaper of Sunday the 21st December, 2014 that more than N21.27 Billion was realised at the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Fund Raising that took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on the 20th December, 2014. I was so distraught that I said that President Good luck Jonathan has finally allied with the rich people against the poor people of Nigeria for associating himself with such obscene show.
Some of my friends on face book came out stoutly to defend (out of sentiments or ignorance) the show of shame into to trivialise the point I was trying to make.
One of them even hastily cited the American experience to buttress their argument that it is not wrong for government contractors, corporate bodies, individuals and group of individuals to donate money for political campaign.
This is an apologetic argument which is diversionary and totally out of place. Campaign financing is a serious matter in the United States of America and in Western Countries.
No individual or group of individual or company can be allowed to donate more than what the law prescribed without running into serious trouble.
We all know that in the United States and the West law is enforced to the letter without minding whose ox is gored.
We have read about how burgeoning political careers have ended abruptly in the United States and in the West because of lack of transparency in the management of campaign funds.
The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Fund Raising Dinner at which that more than N21.27 Billion was realised is an act of impunity and illegality under the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
The donation of billions of Naira towards the campaign of President Jonathan was undoubtedly more than that limit specified by law is nothing but despicable and mindless corruption.
It is deeply regrettably that President Jonathan who is constitutionally the Guardian and Custodian of the Constitution and the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria would be a party to such a brazen violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The conduct of President Jonathan at all times must be exemplary. His advisers should have advised him against associating with such a brutal assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians (especially in this time of extreme economic hardship) and on the provisions of the Electoral Act in the cloak of a Presidential Campaign Fund Raising.
It is unfortunate that the President Jonathan was present and indeed presided over the occasion where such flagrant breached of the provisions of the Electoral Act was committed.
It is worthy to note that the Independent National Electoral Commission is vested with the power by Section 90 (1) of the Electoral Act (supra) to place limitations on the amount of money or other assets which an individual or group of persons contribute to a Political Party.
We saw how some individual or groups of individuals, corporate bodies and companies exceeded the limit placed on donations towards political campaign by the Electoral Act on donation to a Political Party.
For instance the PDP Governors donated about N1.5 Billion; the friends of Professor Jerry Gana donated N5 billion collectively, the Chairman of Access Bank donated N1 Billion; some companies and other corporate bodies donated more than N5 billion to mention just but a few.
Section 91 (1) of the Electoral Act provides that the maximum election expenses to be incurred by candidate at a Presidential election shall be N1, 000,000,000.00.
It goes without saying that the donation of the sum of N21.27 Billion by various individuals, groups of individuals and companies at the PDP Presidential Fund Raising Dinner organised to raise campaign funds for the campaign of President Jonathan is an illegality because it clearly violates Section 91 (2) of the Electoral Act.
Conversely, Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act stipulates that an individual or other entity shall not donate more than N1, 000,000.00 to any candidate.
It is as clear as the crystal that all those individuals, groups of individuals and companies that donated more than N1 Million towards the campaign of President Jonathan have contravened Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act.
Section 91 (10) of the Electoral Act says that candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section commits an offence and on conviction is liable in the case of Presidential election, to a maximum fine of N1, 000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
The ceiling placed by the Electoral Act on the amount to be donated towards the political campaign of a candidate is not only limited to the presidential election.
The Electoral Act has also placed limitation on Governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives, State Assembly and Chairmanship of the Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
However for the purpose of this essay, I shall restrict myself to the presidential election alone.
Section 91 (8) of the Electoral Act provides that in determining the total expenditure incurred in relation to the candidature of any person at any election no account shall be taken of thus:
(a) any deposit made by the candidate on his nomination in compliance with the law;
(b) any expenditure incurred before the notification of the date fixed for the election with respect to services rendered or materials supplied before such notification; or
(c) Political party expenses in respect of the candidate standing for a particular election.
It is clear that all those individuals, groups of individuals, corporate bodies and companies that donated more than N1 Million at the PDP Presidential Fund Raising Dinner have contravened the provisions of the Electoral Act. They immediately should be arrested and charged to Court.
In the case of President Jonathan he has clearly breached Section 91 (10) of the Electoral Act. The saving grace of President Jonathan is that by Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , 1990 (as amended) he has constitutionally immunity from prosecution as long as he in office as President.
The Independent National Electoral Commission must assert its independence by wading into this matter and launching an investigation immediately.