Ahead of the 2019 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has said it would, henceforth, wield the big stick on any political party that overshoots the legal ceiling for campaign funding.
This is as the commission revealed that about eight million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), were yet to be collected by their respective owners.
“We haven’t made much progress in the last two years but we have made elaborate arrangements with the states to ensure that the cards are collected,” said Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the commission’s chairman.
Yakubu spoke when the European Union Election Follow-up Mission to Nigeria, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders compared notes with the INEC at a roundtable organised by European Union delegation to Nigeria and West Africa, weekend.
On the disclosure of party finances, Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said of 46 registered political parties, only five had so far rendered accounts to the commission.
While conceding that tracking party finances could be challenging, the INEC boss stated: “Where a political party comes out openly to raise funds beyond the limits provided for in the constitution, the commission will apply sanctions.”
In its earlier appraisal of the 2015 general elections, INEC had said while the “core cost” of the election was $547 million, political parties and their candidates spent between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.
Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, provides that a presidential candidate can spend a maximum amount of N1 billion, while a governorship candidate can spend a maximum amount of N200 million.
The Electoral Act also provides that a senatorial candidate can spend only a maximum amount of N40 million, while a House of Representatives candidate can spend a maximum amount of N20 million.
For state Assembly election, the Act sets the limit of N10 million, while local government chairmanship and councillorship elections had limits of N10 million and N1 million respectively.
Giving a summary of the commission’s preparations towards the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said: “The most important thing for us as we plan towards 2019 is the effectiveness of our plan.
“We have a Strategic Plan 2017-2021 and we have along with that a Strategic Programme of Action. We have just completed the draft Election Project Plan for 2019. Hopefully next week, we will come up with a figure of what it will cost this nation to conduct the 2019 general elections.
“We have benefited from the numerous elections that we have conducted. As at today, we have conducted elections into 172 constituencies since the 2015 general elections. The last election was three weeks ago in Gombe, the next election is in eight days time in Sokoto, followed by Anambra governorship elections. We have issued the timetable for Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.”
On simultaneous accreditation and voting, he said: “In Bayelsa, in January 2016, we combined accreditation and voting and it was well received.
‘’Now, you can only vote at the polling unit where you are registered. You cannot vote elsewhere. It has been going on very well.”
Yakubu also spoke on the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise, noting that the credibility of elections dependded on the credibility of the voter register.
He said: “We are now doing it continuously. We have seen some challenges and we are responding to them. We started in April and as at last week, we have registered 3.2 million Nigerians, aside from the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections that we had before. Our projection is that the voter register will probably be over 80 million by 2019.”
On Anambra governorship election coming up November 18, Yakubu said: “We are combining the governorship election with the Idemili North state constituency election. There will be two ballot boxes and voters will receive two ballot papers.
He said: “All the other arrangements, logistics, staff training, and security, are in place. We are killing two birds with one stone. And for the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria, 37 political parties are contesting in the Anambra election.
“Of the 14 activities lined up, we have executed nine. We are so determined as a commission to make the 2019 general elections better than 2015.”
He also allayed fears of some stakeholders that security agencies could postpone the election at the last minute.