The source of election campaign finance for politicians who are also civil servants has become a matter of grave concern given the high propensity for corruption in the country.
According to the media, presidential candidates, including incumbent governors (even before becoming candidates), have literally spent tons of money to achieve their aspirations. These expenses specifically include aircraft rental costs denominated in dollars. A national newspaper recently calculated that a campaign aspirant could spend between $3,000 and $10,000 an hour on a leased plane. And, it could be more depending on the appropriate aircraft size for an aspirant’s team size.
While people in private life – independent professionals, business people and other people in private employment cannot draw public attention to the source(s) of the money deployed to pursue an ambition Legitimately, it is, of course, professionally and constitutionally, the duty of Nigerians and the media to take an interest in and scrutinize the sources of money that public office holders spend to further their aspirations.
Let it be clear that the media are, like no other profession, constitutionally authorized under Article 22 to perform this function as follows: “The press, radio, television and other mass media agencies shall at at any time be free to defend the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter [II] and uphold government responsibility and accountability to the people. It is a service rendered in the public interest in the face of what appears to be a waste of state wealth by its managers.
It is in this context that the hiring of private planes by six incumbent governors and aspiring presidents has come under media fire. It is reported that two of the aspirants namely Nyesom Wike from Rivers State and Aminu Tambuwal from Sokoto State have each visited 20 states at the time of writing. Kayode Fayemi from Ekiti State is counted to have visited 16 states. The travel cost of these ambition-driven personal visits, between $3,000 and $10,000 per hour, is uncertain. Calculated in naira, it is no exaggeration that tons of money is spent on these personal aspirations of public office holders.
The reasonable and legitimate question to ask is therefore “where does the money come from?” This question arises in the context of, first, the relevant articles of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, such as Article 183 which provides that “the Governor shall not, during the period of his office, occupy other executive functions or salaried employment in any capacity; second, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials set forth in the Fifth Schedule, Part I; and third, the legally approved remuneration of Governors by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Taxation Commission (RMAFC).
Another, and arguably the most important, reason to wonder who governors spend the money on is the pervasive corruption in the country, especially as it is blatantly, atrociously, recklessly perpetrated in the public sector, and to boot, by senior government officials. It is unfortunate that when it comes to financial integrity, Nigerians have little reason to give public officials the benefit of the doubt.
The RMAFC is constitutionally authorized to ‘determine appropriate compensation for political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisors, Legislators and the holders of the functions mentioned in Articles 84 and 124 of this Constitution…’. The Board approves Governors as follows: Annual base salary of N2, 223,705.00; Hardship allowance at 50% of base salary N1, 111,852.00; Constituency @200 percent N4, 447410.00. The total is shown as N7,782,967.50.
In addition, a governor is granted annual leave at 10% N222,370.00; Car loan repayable at 400% of base salary N8,894,820.00; Severance pay @ 300% of base salary N6, 671,115.00. Given such modest, but in Nigeria’s fair and reasonable economic environment, it is mind-boggling how a governor serving eight years can afford such an incalculable cost of pre-campaign expenses (including, of course, nomination forms) while Nigerians are witnessed. It bears repeating: where does the money come from?
In addition, there are factors that at first glance raise eyebrows as to how governors of relatively poor states like Ekiti and Sokoto can mobilize the huge sums being spent. Ekiti State’s 2022 budget is N100.8 billion, Sokoto State’s is N188.4 billion and Rivers State’s is N448 billion. Calculated in dollars, it is “small change”; compared to the urgent development needs of these States, these are only drops in the ocean of necessary funding. Ekiti State’s 2020 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was a miserable N8.716 billion, Sokoto State an equally miserable N11.79 billion. Rivers State at 117.189 billion naira was a bit better, but not impressively so. So, again, where does the money come from?
Indeed, the source of the money should be of interest not only to anti-corruption agencies but also to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This electoral arbiter is, for example, authorized by article 225 of the Constitution to receive and examine “the sources of funds and other assets as well as the statements of expenses” of “each political party”. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has broad powers under the Constitution and its enabling legislation to investigate and prosecute the suspicious financial activities of anyone.
However, it is gratifying that the EFCC and INEC have indicated their respective concerns and planned action plans. EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa reportedly says his agency is ‘working hand in hand with INEC and other related agencies’ to ‘find out where all the money is coming from,’ if it’s legit or illegitimate…’.
The INEC has promised to set up “monitoring committees” to examine the sources of funding for candidates for the civil service. ‘…we will set in motion our monitoring committees such as central banks, DSS, EFCC, ICPC, (commercial) banks and other law enforcement agencies… ‘Each candidate must be obliged to declare his bank assets. That’s where they get their money, so we’ll have them present their account statement upfront. We will make it mandatory for them to hand over their bank statements so that if they say they are doing billboard and the account stays the same, there is a problem.
Furthermore, the INEC National Commissioner in charge of the Party’s Oversight Committee, Prof. Kunle Ajayi, reportedly said that through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), commercial banks are required to report suspicious transactions, failing which they risk being prosecuted.
The EFCC said it was “concerned first and foremost…about good governance, transparency, accountability and those corrupt elements who are not being given leadership positions in this country”. This is well said. Nigerians expect the organization to carry out this laudable mission.
The electoral law limits expenditure for the presidential election to 5 billion naira. The law also prohibits the use of state assets such as money, vehicles, personnel, aircraft and public buildings, including the media, to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. at any election. However, it seems that INEC and EFCC have a lot of investigation to do.
The overall effect on the state of the population of capacity, as well as the unnecessary expenditure of people in high public office, is so obvious to everyone. An otherwise wealthy country is ranked as the ‘poverty capital of the world’, all development indices are appallingly low and for years Nigeria remains ranked among the world’s low income countries. These are the consequences of high and unjustifiable cost of governance, misuse of public funds and outright theft of public resources. But that is not why Nigerians voted the All Progressives Congress (APC) to replace the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.
Nigerians rightly rejected what they thought was a corrupt PDP for an APC that promised, among other alluring things, to “prevent abuses of executive, legislative and public office through greater accountability, transparency and enforcement.” strict anti-corruption laws. while strengthening the EFCC and ICPC. Alas, for obvious reasons, things did not go as hoped by the electorate on the one hand, nor as promised by the elected officials on the other.
So it bears repeating: INEC and the anti-corruption agencies have a lot of scrutiny and investigative work to do. Let them get to work immediately, if only to save this country and its unfortunate people from continued squandering of their wealth and systematic underdevelopment.