Political campaigns all over the world are capital-intensive. Political parties and politicians rely heavily on campaign funding to ensure their political campaigns are successful. Candidates and their parties use campaign funding to recruit political and media consultants, field organisers and volunteers, who mobilise the electorate to vote for a particular candidate.
Political scientists and analysts have described campaign funding as one of the most crucial elements of political campaigns. Candidates and their political parties are expected to raise funds to serve various purposes in their campaigns. Having such funds has been described as a game changer and separates the boys from the men in political campaigns.
With the 2023 general election campaigns in Nigeria now in full swing, all eyes are on political parties, their candidates for elective positions and members on how they will undertake campaign funding. Will they change the perception of what campaign funding has been known in Nigeria? Will these political players respect the campaign spending laws and adhere to the campaign spending limit?
Meaning of campaign funding
Campaign funding can be described as the money raised and spent during a political campaign which is intended to promote political parties and their activities and influence the election of candidates. Ir refers to the means of financing election campaigns and routine operations of candidates and their political parties.
Campaign funding is the livewire of any political campaign. This is because political parties and their candidates require money to run, pursue and publicise their campaigns effectively. Political campaigns involve expenditures such as the purchase of campaign forms, covering the remuneration of campaign staff and the travel costs of candidates and staff, and payment for advertising and public relations fees.
In Nigeria, the campaign funds extend to money to mobilise or entice voters to enable them to vote for a particular candidate on election day, a practice better known as vote-buying.
Sources of campaign funding
The sources of campaign funding vary considerably across countries. However, there are two sources of funds for parties and candidates in every country: public financing and private financing.
Public financing is when the government provides funds for political parties and their candidates during the campaign period. The government regulates the disbursement of funds to run their campaign.
Public financing of campaigns is of various ranges, including:
- Direct subsidy payment
- Exemption from fees of government services
- Provision of airtime for campaigns on state-controlled media outfits at low rates
- Permission of use of state property for political campaigns
- Free or subsidised printing of electoral materials
- Use of state postal services at a subsidised rate
Private financing involves private donors providing money to finance political campaigns. This sort of donation can be made by private individuals, groups and for-profit corporations.
Political parties and candidates can receive private contributions via the following means:
- Donations made by private individuals to the bank accounts of candidates and political parties
- Crowdfunding donations
- Donations from fundraising activities
- Gifts and grants by corporations
In addition, private contributions to campaigns can come from within the political parties, candidates and their members via the following:
- Subscription fees and levies from membership of the party
- Proceeds from investments made by the party
- Loans approved by the leadership of a political party
- Use of personal resources by candidates
- Grants that are given to candidates by political parties
Campaign funding in Nigeria
Although political campaigns in Nigeria began following the introduction of the elective principle in the 1922 Constitution (known as the Clifford Constitution, named after Governor Hugh Clifford), the intensity of campaign funding in the country started with the 1954 federal elections. The 1954 elections were the first general elections in the history of Nigeria.
However, right from the onset, there was an absence of strict legislation to regulate campaign funding and party financing in general. Private financing was the first source of campaign funding utilised in Nigeria and due to the lack of regulation, politicians and political parties had the liberty of extravagant spending, whose funds were steeped in corruption.
For example, two years after the election, there were allegations of financial impropriety against some members of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), who were said to have business interests in the now-defunct African Continental Bank (ACB). The Foster Sutton Tribunal of Enquiry was constituted to investigate the accusations. Likewise, in 1962, the Coker Commission of Inquiry investigated six Western Nigeria public corporations allegedly involved in a corruption crisis that rocked the leadership of the Action Group (AG). The absence of a clearly defined regulatory framework for campaign funding impacted the 1964 Federal Elections and the 1965 Western election, which were reportedly tainted by corruption.
A regulatory framework concerning campaign funding for elections was enshrined for the first time in the country for the 1979 general election. Section 201 of the 1979 constitution stipulated that no association other than political parties shall make any contribution to the funds of political parties or the election of any candidates at any election. Section 205 of the same constitution prohibited political parties from receiving funds from foreign entities.
The same Section 205 also ensured that public financing made its debut in Nigeria’s election campaign during the same period. The constitution directed the government to render financial assistance to political parties in the way of subventions. However, no limit was instituted on how much corporate bodies and individuals could contribute in terms of private financing to political parties. This situation allowed private individuals regarded as “moneybags” to contribute towards the campaign of a political party and its candidate in a bid to influence the political process and decision-making at the government level.
By allowing private interests to uncontrollably provide the campaign funding for a political campaign, candidates and political parties are inherently allowing themselves to be at the whims and caprices of these donors. These donors, especially wealthy individuals and interest groups, attempt to dictate or influence the policies and decisions of politicians and their parties, especially if they get elected into office. These donations are stringed with conditions such as the provision of contracts, the appointments of cronies into chosen public offices and the enactment or defeat of certain pieces of legislation.
This was exactly what happened in the 1979 and 1983 general elections. The politicians exploited the loopholes in the law to accept both legal and illegal funding from various prominent individuals, groups and corporations, which, in turn, used their influence to become contractors in government both at the federal and state government levels. The political parties in power and the government of the day rendered patronage to various private interests. For instance, 10 political party members donated N5 million at a fund-raising ceremony in Lagos.
The corruption that besieged these donations was so rampant that the various special tribunals instituted by the military when it took over power in 1983 to that prosecute politicians and ex-officeholders revealed gross abuse of public office and impropriety in dealing with political parties and private groups.
Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 was expected to usher in a new era of normalcy. However, this situation has not changed; instead, it has degenerated. The current Fourth Republic has seen the rise of “godfathers”, who are wealthy individuals and powerful political patrons who support candidates and political parties in exchange for imposing their influence, choices and decisions on the latter. As a result, only candidates anointed by the godfathers are likely to pick the party’s ticket for elective positions and are financially supported during the campaign period. When elected, these candidates are expected to do the bidding of their godfathers unreservedly.
Examples of states that have been plagued by this godfatherism syndrome include Lagos, Oyo, Kwara, Anambra and Osun.
Asides from private financing, Section 228(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the National Assembly to provide for an annual grant to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral umpire in Nigeria, for disbursement to political parties. A part of the funds is disbursed to the political parties just ahead of any general election.
Although there have been regulations created since 1999 to checkmate the expenses of political parties, these parties have consistently flouted such regulations. Perhaps, they are partly aided by the inconsistency and mellow stance of the regulatory authority.
Are there campaign funding laws in Nigeria?
Yes, Nigeria has laws to regulate the camping funding mechanisms of political parties and their candidates. The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) was created by the 1999 constitution and has been empowered with the constitutional responsibility to monitor the finances of political parties, conduct an annual examination and audit of the funds of political parties and publish a report for public information.
In addition, the Electoral Act 2022, passed by the Ninth National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on 25 February 2022, sets forth the limit on political expenses and financing of elections, as well as indicates the sources of campaign funds.
Campaign spending limits in Nigeria
Section 88 spells out the campaign expenses limit for candidates and political parties. It states:
88.—(1) Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsections (2)-(7).
(2) The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall not exceed N5,000,000,000.
(3) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of governorship election shall not exceed N1,000,000,000.
(4) The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate in respect of Senatorial and House of Representatives seat shall not exceed N100,000,000 and N70,000,000 respectively.
(5) In the case of State Assembly election, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30,000,000.
(6) In the case of a chairmanship election to an Area Council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N30,000,000.
(7) In the case of Councillorship election to an Area Council, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred by a candidate shall not exceed N5,000,000.
(8) No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N50,000,000.
Section 88(9),(10) and (11) stipulate the penalties for violating the campaign expenses limit.
88 (9) A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of 1% of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or imprisonment for a term not more than 12 months or both.
(10) Any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both.
(11) An accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the contravention of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N3,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.
Section 89(1) states that “for the purposes of an election, ‘election expenses’ means expenses incurred by a political party within the period from the date notice is given by the Commission to conduct an election up to and including, the polling day in respect of the particular election”.
Section 89(3) specifies that “election expenses of a political party shall be submitted to the Commission in a separate audited return within six months after the election and such return shall be signed by the political party’s auditors and countersigned by the Chairman of the party and be supported by a sworn affidavit by the signatories as to the correctness of its contents”.
Section 89(4) and (7) stipulate the penalties for breaching sub-section 3 of this section.
89(4) A political party which contravenes subsection (3) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 and in the case of failure to submit an accurate audited return within the stipulated period, the court may impose a maximum penalty of N200,000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission.
(7) Any political party that incurs election expenses beyond the limit set in subsection (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 and forfeiture to the Commission, of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the Commission.
Section 90 places emphasis on the disclosure of the sources of campaign funding by political parties.
90.—(1) A political party shall not accept or keep in its possession any anonymous monetary or other contribution, gift or property, from any source.
(2) A political party shall keep an account and asset book into which shall be recorded—
(a) all monetary and other forms of contributions received by the party; and
(b) the name and address of any person or entity that contributes any money or asset which exceeds N1,000,000.
(3) A political party shall not accept any monetary or other contribution which is more than N50,000,000 unless it can identify the source of the money or other contribution to the Commission.
(4) A political party sponsoring the election of a candidate shall, within three months after the announcement of the results of the election, file a report of the contributions made by individuals and entities to the Commission.