The Independent National Electoral Commission on Friday said it would beam its searchlight on politicians and political parties to track the sources of funds for their campaigns in the 2023 general elections.
The commission promised to set up a committee to monitor the election expenditure ahead of the elections.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, represented by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Committee on Party Monitoring, Prof Kunle Ajayi, stated this in Abuja during a policy roundtable conference on political campaign finance organised by The Electoral Forum, an organ of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development with support from MacArthur Foundation.
TEF is a multidisciplinary strategic think-tank aimed at strengthening electoral governance and accountability in Nigeria through the provision of data, critical and contextualised analysis and solutions to improve the credibility and integrity of the electoral process.
The INEC chairman also said that the commission would monitor the movement of money on election days to help tackle vote-buying at polling units.
Mahmood said through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, commercial banks would be mandated to report all suspicious transactions ahead of the election.
The INEC chairman also threatened to prosecute any bank that failed to cooperate.
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He said, “As long as we have not notified anybody that the race for the 2023 general elections has started, we are not aware of what anybody is doing. We follow the law strictly.
“We have not officially declared a notice for the 2023 general elections, but when we so declare, we will put our monitoring committees to motion like the Central Bank of Nigeria, DSS, EFCC, the ICPC, and other law enforcement agencies. We have that plan already.
“Every candidate must be made to declare their bank assets. That is where they draw out their money, so we will make them present their statements of account right from the onset.
“We will make it mandatory for them to turn in their bank statements so that if they say they are doing billboard and the account remains the same, then there is a problem.”
Speaking on the issue of vote-buying, the INEC Chairman said, “We are going to establish finance monitoring teams and they will be among the electorate but they (politicians and political parties) won’t know.
“We are going to do it in a way that the influence of money will be reduced because we want to make the electoral field a level playing ground for both rich and poor candidates and electorates. Everybody will go in on an equal economic level so that nobody would influence the voting pattern.”
According to him, besides the Electoral Act, the constitution empowers INEC to also make any other regulations that will boost its efficiency, adding that the Electoral Act empowers INEC to make other regulations.
A former chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, who spoke from outside the country identified the lack of accountability and transparency in political campaign financing as key factors responsible for some challenges facing Nigeria’s electoral system.
Jega said, “If we insist on accountability, then you can begin to somehow sanitise the way political parties raise funds. I think what has happened is that we paid too much attention to the issue of electronic transmission of results, and somehow, they quickly passed the sections about raising the threshold. The civil society organisation did not pay much attention to their advocacy against this particular issue.” PUNCH