‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja


Daily Courier – Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, and his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega, have expressed concern over the increase in campaign spending and corruption ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.

The duo also expressed worry over emerging and longstanding threats to elections, including structural factors on specific issues like insecurity, electoral violence, hate speech defection and voter apathy.

Worrisome is the political parties’ move to beat INEC’s June 3 deadline for their primaries, as aspirants have intensified their move to woo delegates with cash.

There has also been public outrage over the high costs of nomination forms for the various political posts as announced by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, with that of the president going for N100 million and that of the opposition party, Peoples Democratic party (PDP) of N40 million.

Given the dark socio-economic background of Nigeria which, according to the data from the World Poverty Clock as of March 2022, has over 70 million people currently living in extreme poverty, representing 33 per cent of the country’s population, worrisome still is that the country, with the highest number of school-age children still out of school.

Speaking during a one-day colloquium yesterday in Abuja on ‘’Emerging Issues that will Shape the 2023 General Election in Nigeria’’ organised by Centre for Democracy Development (CDD) and Open Society Initiatives for West Africa (OSIWA)Yakubu noted the sad issue on ground as the nation moves towards the 2023 election was beyond vote-buying in polling unit.

He stressed that what political party does ahead of secondary election is critical to what INEC does “because they conduct the primary election while INEC conducts the secondary election.’’

Yakubu particularly noted that the way money was exchanging hands was a source of concern.

According to him, “What political parties do is critical to what INEC does, because they conduct the primary election. It is the candidate that emerges in the primary election that participates in the secondary election. The way money is exchanging hands is a source of concern.

“We are collaborating with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to track campaign funding. We also had a meeting with the Code of Conduct Bureau and Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) on issues of revenue generation.’’

On his part, Jega lamented money rain in the nation’s electoral space, adding that rather than moving forward the nation is retrogressing.

“Many of us are saying that we are gradually moving towards plutocracy instead of deepening our democracy. Imagine the NASS amended the Electoral Act to increase the threshold of spending during elections. That is what we should oppose rather than focusing on electronic transmission.

“They now put a huge nomination fee. Making it difficult for people to contest. We have to make elections less expensive otherwise elections will become for the rich only. They invest to recoup,’’ he said.

Speaking further, he lamented that efforts are been made by the political class to undermine the election.

“I commend INEC for refusing to hearken to the pressure by political parties. The timetable was set since February under careful contemplation and in line with the new Electoral Law,’’ he said.

He stated that shifting the election timetable was a recipe for electoral disaster.

‘’If you listen to this, you will lose trust. You will keep changing the time. Because when you shift an activity, it affects others. They had since February 2022 given the timetable. INEC should not listen to the pressure. All actors involved in the election should work with the timeframe,’’ he added.

Also, IPAC national chairman, Yabagi Sani, said INEC did not invite them before the election timetable was published.

‘’We are only asking for a 30-day shift. INEC should allow political party have the time to get it right,’’ he added.