by Yusuf Ali
There were indications yesterday that the Chairman of Skye Bank, Mr. Tunde Ayeni, and more than 30 other businessmen might be fined for donating N21billion to the campaign fund for President Goodluck Jonathan.
The businessmen also risk sanctions from the boards of companies where they are major players.
Determined to stave off sanctions for raising N21billion campaign funds, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) have sought legal advice.
The PDP may hide under the guise of raising the funds for the completion of its National Secretariat.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Manual said it is compulsory for PDP to disclose the names and addresses of those who contributed to its campaign funds.
According to sources in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the law only allows imposition of fine on any company or a member of the Board of Directors involved in campaign funding.
The sources, however, said a company can invoke Corporate Governance Rules to deal with any board member guilty of such infractions.
Some of those involved are Mr. Ayeni (who announced a donation of N2.5billion for himself, friends and power sector); Hajiya Bola Shagaya(N5billion for Oil and Gas Sector); Oluchi Okoye (who donated N4billion on behalf of Real Estate Sector); Chief Ominife Uzoegbu (N500million for Food and Agriculture sector); Chairman of Deep Offshore, Didi Ndimou(N1billion for Transport and Aviation Sector; Cizaly Limited (N250m); Shelter Development Limited (N250million); the SIFAX Group (N100million); National Automotive Association (N450million); National Association of Stevedores Companies (N25million) and Ajuji Best Western Hotel (N1million).
One of the sources said: “Our law is weak. Going by Section 38(2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), any corporate player involved in such a mess will both refund the cash and pay fine.
Section 38 ( 2) says: “A company shall not have or exercise power either directly or indirectly to make a donation or a gift of any of its property or funds to a political party or political association, or for any political purpose; and if in breach of this subsection makes any donation or gives of its property to a political party or political association or for any political purpose, the officers in default and any member who voted for the breach shall be jointly and severally liable to refund to the company the sum or value of the donation or gift and, in addition, the company and every such officer or member shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine equal to the amount or value of the donation or gift.
“The affected corporate players can, however, be sanctioned by their companies’ Board of Directors.
“When at an AGM a former official of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc announced that the bank had donated some cash to Obasanjo Presidential Library, the shareholders rejected the report and ordered a review.
“You can also recall the position of the Nigerian Breweries on his erstwhile brilliant Managing Director, Festus Odimegwu who had to step down because of the role of Corporate Nigeria in elections.”
As at last night, the Presidency and the PDP were keeping the list of donors under wrap.
The two parties have sought legal advice to avoid sanctions and litigations which may affect President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid.
A source said: “With the controversy on the N21billion donations, the list of donors might not be released to the public.
“The PDP might also come up with a fresh argument that not all the donated funds were meant for Jonathan’s campaign.
“Those involved in the donations have just realised that they committed a slip. They are just trying to seek advice on how to manage the bad situation.
“One of the arguments of the Legal Advisers borders on the fact that PDP is not bound to make such disclosures until three months after the February 2015 presidential poll. They said this can be in May 2015.”
INEC’s Political Finance Monitoring Manual compels the PDP or any other party to disclose the list of donors – in line with Section 93 of the Electoral Act 2010(as amended).
A source in the commission said: “The law is very clear, PDP has no choice than to disclose the names and addresses of the donors. It is not our business but a court of law can compel it to do so in compliance with Section 93 of the Electoral Act.
“Even if INEC remains impartial, some anti-corruption organisations or groups or political parties can make issues out of the provision of the Electoral Act.”