IDEAS Radio 31st October 2018

 

Aghogho Oboh: Welcome back to 99.3 Nigeria Info, your No. 1 talk news, sports and radio, sports radio station.  We apologise for the technical difficulties we’ve been having, but we’re set to go now with Countdown 2019 NG, where we feature all on the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 elections.  Remember, you can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019NG and @RotimiSankore on Twitter. You can also tweet at us on the station handle @NigeriaInfoFM and Aghogho Oboh also on Twitter, you can find me.

 

Our big topic today, both the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe and on the main programme, the updated Electoral Act as amended.  Firstly, on the IDEAS segment, what are the implications of the updated Electoral Act for Integrity, Democracy Ethics and Accountability?  We’ll be joined on the phone by Clement Nwankwo who is the Executive Director of the Policy Legal and Advocacy Centre, and coordinator of the Civil Society Situation Room.  Ayo Obe, great to have you on the IDEAS segment.

 

Ayo Obe: Hello A[ghogho], and welcome to the IDEAS section.  You can also follow us on Twitter too on @ideasradiong, and please also check out our website which is www.ideasradio.ng where we’ve got, we’ve started uploading video recordings, podcasts and transcripts of our previous editions.  So please check it out and let us know what you think.

 

Today, we’re going to be discussing, as [Aghogho] said, the latest incarnation of the Electoral Act, and you know that this Act has gone through many different incarnations, and something new always seems to be coming out.  But because the Policy Legislation Advocacy Centre has done, has looked at the Act for us, or the proposed Act, the Bill, for us, we have invited its Executive Director, Clement Nwankwo, who’s also the convener of the Situation Room, to help us understand whether or not this legislation is going to enhance the integrity of the electoral process.  There are so many different aspects to it, I’m not sure we can get through it all in the 15 minutes we have but, I would like to say … Clement, are you there? And …

 

Rotimi Sankore: Not yet, not yet …

 

AO: Not yet?  Okay, so the first things I think that I want to … perhaps I can turn to my co-presenter Rotimi Sankore to look at some of the issues, because the Act is quite a piece of, a detailed piece of legislation, and not all of it is going to apply to our coming election that we have now.  For example, some of the provisions which limit the amount that can be charged for nomination forms, those will not, those cannot have retroactive application, so they won’t come into force for these elections, but for elections going forward. But Rotimi, I think that one of the first things that strikes me about the Act which is in section 8, which is that INEC staff can be penalised if they fail to disclose their affiliation or membership of a political party because they want a job with the Commission.  Now, a lot of people feel that if you’re going to be involved in elections, or even as a media person, that you’re not allowed to have any position or affiliation because it’s going necessarily impact the way that you do things. Is it possible to disclose your affiliation and still be an impartial, neutral umpire, do you think?

 

RS: Let me put it differently.  I think it’s possible to have political affiliations and still do your job properly.  I think that’s very possible. The challenge with this, is that once you disclose, what will then be the perception of whether you have done your job properly or not, or impartially, especially if the party that you have so declared to support or be a member of, wins or … even if people cannot prove in any way that your action or inaction favoured the party, there’s going to be a perception problem.  Even in sports, we know that referees support certain clubs, or like certain clubs, or members of their family or workplace like certain clubs. If the referee is then refereeing a match between that club and another one, and there is a borderline offside call …

 

AO: Yeah

 

RS: … in a situation where people would have just said, hmm, let’s let it pass, people will say: Ah no, but we’ve seen him wearing a jersey of that club before.  So I think the real problem is with the perception, not with the actual bias.

 

AO: But certainly the perception is very important …

 

RS: Yes, it is.

 

AO: … because we’re in a situation, we’re in a situation where we are facing threats of violence or the possibility of violence …

 

RS: Let’s ask Clement.  I think we have him now.

 

AO: Oh, Clement, Welcome to IDEAS?

 

Clement Nwankwo: Thank you Ayo and Rotimi.

 

AO: It’s great to have you on the programme.  Because what we … I was hoping that we’d get your view on the opening salvo, which is that people think that if you’ve been a member of a political party, or you have an affiliation to a political party, you can’t be an impartial umpire.  And yet there was a time when the Constitution itself, because of a drafting error, made it mandatory for the Chair of INEC to be a member of a political party and nominated by that party. So I want to assume that that particular piece of legislation or the Constitution, is being ignored, or has been amended?

 

CN: Well in 2010 there was an amendment to the Constitution that took out that ambiguity.  I think certainly people recognised it was an inadvertent ambiguity, and it wasn’t really intended that you had to be a member of a political party to be in the Electoral Commission, indeed, it was not expected that anybody appointed into the Commission is a member of a political party.  So that amendment was made in the Constitution in 2010 and one of the requirements now for anybody to be a member of the Commission is that they must not belong to a political party.

 

Indeed also, when people are called to electoral function, they are excluded from being … they must declare their political affiliations and the law now is quite clear that no person who is a member of a political party is allowed to function in the role of an election umpire.

 

AO: OK, so they have to disclose their affiliation, and that automatically disqualifies them from being appointed?

 

CN: Yes, what it means is of course, is that if a person discloses his political affiliation, the Electoral Commission is then expected to recuse or to excuse the person from performing that role, so in reality the intention is to ensure non-partisanship in terms of those calls to electoral duty.

 

AO: I see.  Now Clement, before you came on air, Rotimi and I were discussing some of the provisions of the Bill that is going back to the President, for – I can’t remember what time this is – and we mentioned the issue of  the limit on the amount that can be paid for nomination, which will not take effect for this electoral cycle. But I wonder if there are any other provisions of the Bill that jump out at you as matters that will enhance the  integrity of the electoral process?

 

CN: Well certainly the Electoral Act doesn’t also go into conversations about how much people should pay for election forms, nomination forms; that is left at the discretion of the political parties.  What the Electoral Act has done is to say that candidates for election must not spend beyond a certain amount of money, and so there is what you’d call ‘elections expenses cap’, so for the President you would have an amount indicated as the cap of expenditure to be made, and for a Governor of a State and the same for the House of Representatives, so all of these positions have caps.  What we saw recently when parties set very high tabs, or very high nomination form costs, was that of course that they began to argue that this provision is only with respect to candidates and not to aspirants and that since these expenses are being paid by aspirants and not candidates, that they are not necessarily in violation of the law as it exists. And that means that of course, going forward, this is  something that needs to be looked at …

 

AO: But em, Clement

 

CN: … and whether it needs further amendment on this.

 

AO: Well I’m going to come back on the issue of the nomination forms, but with regard to what can be spent by candidates, we’ve seen the situation in other countries, particularly the United States with their SuperPacs, which is to say that a candidate may say: I’m only spending, you know, within the limit.  But then there will be others who say: Well, we just like this candidate and we’re going to take out advertisements, we’re going to spend money on supporting this candidate, and the candidate will, can present themselves as having nothing to do with this support group and then the … it ends up that the candidate who can attract the most money, that just as long as it doesn’t pass through the candidate’s own bank accounts  or their own party accounts, they can still get out of these provisions. Is there anything that stops that from taking place?

 

CN: Well the Electoral Act and then the new provisions in the new law that we are hoping that the President signs as quickly as it is transmitted to him, sets limits on contributions that a person can make and the highest amount you can make as donation to a party or a candidate is N10 million for an individual.  Now it’s a question now whether that N10 million can be categorised into, categorised in money terms, whether you can monetise and calculate based on adverts …

 

AO: Well, but if somebody who is not part of the campaign decides to take out an advertisement, is it the fault of the candidate?  Because if they don’t have a direct link, I mean there is a problem because you can even sabotage somebody’s campaign by taking out advertisements ostensibly in their favour, and then they will get stuck with the idea that this advertisement has taken them outside the spending limit.

 

CN: Well again, that’s where the gaps are.  If you look at the provisions, the limitations on expenditure for instance, it’s saying that the President’s campaign expenditure shall not exceed N5 billion, for a Governor N1 billion and then on and on to Senate, which is N100 million, House of Representatives N70 million and so on.  Certainly if the advert that someone takes out is in excess of N10 million, then that individual who takes out that those adverts or incurs those expenditures will be in violation of the law …

 

AO: Well, they will say that they all came together to …

 

CN: Well, the law as it is now says “to be incurred by a candidate”, it is what is incurred by a candidate, not what is incurred by somebody else on behalf of the candidate.  So the candidate would not be in violation of the law. What the law anticipates is his own expenditure.

 

AO: But then when we’re talking the integrity, I appreciate that definitely we have to be concerned about the kind of money that is spent on these campaigns, but what way, you know, a voter who sees something that pretends to have nothing to do with the candidate but nonetheless spending huge amounts of money supporting that candidate, and then, if the candidate happens to be successful, that person  just happens to be appointed ambassador or to get contracts and so on. Isn’t there a problem? Is there no way in which the election management body should be involved or concerned, or we the voters just need to shine our eyes?

 

CN: Well certainly if someone is making contribution to a campaign, it’s for a purpose, and it’s … there’s nothing illegal about contributing to a campaign and getting appointed into …

 

AO: No, I don’t mean contributing to a campaign, but just pretending to be outside and just happening to take out advertisements for one person or the other.

 

CN: It would not be illegal; the idea is that that one individual does not spend in excess of N10 million.  So if you have 100 people spending a million naira each in a way that tops the expenses cost, for let’s say, a Governor, which is N1 billion, it has nothing to do with the Governor under this law, because the law says “the expenses incurred by the candidate,” which means when he voluntarily and on his own account spends in excess of that amount, then he’ll be in violation of the law, but where he doesn’t, then, and someone else is spending money, supposedly in his favour, he is not in control of that, and the law does not anticipate that he pays a penalty for that.

 

AO: OK, I think we’ve just scratched the surface of this legislation.  I can see, looking at it, I would advise you, I would advise listeners if you have the chance, to go to the PLAC website, www.placng.org, and see, have a look at their assessment of this legislation for yourselves because it’s really quite interesting to see …

 

CN: Yes Ayo, what we’ve done with the website is actually put out information on the proposed Bill as well, that is going to be sent to the President for assent so people know what the contents are and can be able to do their own analysis and understanding of it.

 

AO: OK, so I want to thank you Clement.

 

CN: Alright Ayo …

 

RS: Clement, can I say thank you and well done for the way you’ve put, you’ve laid out the document which says what the current provisions are, and what the provisions are as passed by the National Assembly.  That’s what we really should be pointing listeners towards.

 

CN: You’re right Rotimi.  Thank you so much and thank you Ayo.

 

RS: Thank you so much.  Great job by both PLAC and the Situation Room and yourself.

 

CN: Thank you Rotimi, thank you.

 

AO: Bye!

 

Note: After the IDEAS segment with Clement Nwankwo, co-presenters Ayo Obe and Rotimi Sankore continued the discussion of the Electoral Act with Aghogho Oboh on the Countdown 2019 NG programme.  The transcript of their discussion follows.

 

RS: So, we’ve been listening to Clement Nwankwo giving us an analysis of some sections of the Electoral Act.  But I think it’s important that we also clarify … people were asking on Friday, some specific questions. I think one of them has been partly answered by Clement, someone asked specifically, and we said we would Tweet it or bring that information on air today: What’s the highest amount that an individual or entity can contribute.  In case anyone missed it, it’s now N10 million.  It used to be N1 million, but it’s now N10 million under section 91(9) of the Electoral Act.   It says “… prohibits any individual or entity from donating more than N10 million.”  So, for those who really wanted to know, that’s …

 

AO: Well, I mean we need to emphasize that this is the legislation that is going before the …

 

RS: Well it has been passed by National Assembly, and the President needs to sign …

 

AO: Yes, needs to sign, but it’s going … and the Electoral Act has gotten to the President’s desk before, and he’s sent it back.

 

RS: Yes, but his people said he will sign this time …

 

AO: Well, I mean we, I think it’s important that we understand because as I said, some parts of this legislation will come into effect for this election, and some of it has already been overtaken by events.

 

RS: And some of it will come in for the next elections.  That is, aspects that have been overtaken by events.

 

AO: Yes, like the nomination forms.

 

RS: … like the nomination forms, the expression of interest forms.  And I found it really interesting, because we were jokingly saying here last week, that you know, this N45 million which is the highest, from the APC, that it effectively prices out a lot of people …

 

AO: People who can’t get supporters with a million naira each …

 

RS: Yes, yes, with a million each.  In other words, if you don’t know 45 people that can contribute N1 million each, or 90 people that can contribute …

 

AO: … half a million each

 

RS: … half a million each, or etc. etc. then you are out of the race.  But what this does effectively, is that from 2023, the new provisions will then be that parties cannot charge more than N10 million for the presidential aspirants, for the senatorial N5 million, for the House of Reps …

 

AO: No, Senatorial is N2 million and governorship is N5 million.

 

RS: Sorry, Governorship is N5 million, Senatorial is N2 million, House of Reps N1 million …

 

AO: But Rotimi don’t you think there’s a bit of a problem in setting limits like this.  Because quite frankly many people, I mean, that may not be how it looks to you and I, but for many people N2 million to pay to apply to be a Senator is like a chicken change really, and if the value of the currency or inflation hammers us the way it did before, we may find ourselves in a situation where the crowd of aspirants becomes almost unwieldy.  I mean, some may say: the more the merrier, but …

 

RS: For me, whether it’s ten million or 40 million if I was going to get the form, I would have to ask everyone I know, to say: Guys, do you believe in me or not?  I’m sure, like I said last week, for N10 million, I’m reasonably sure I could find people that can contribute this amount that believe in me.  Now whether I’m going to win is another thing entirely, but in terms of: Do I have the intellectual capacity to run and, ten million, even if it’s fifty people or a hundred people, but the point is, how many people know enough people, to do …  I even think that this N10 million is high!

 

AO: Let’s not forget that this is the upper limit, so you may be in a political party …

 

RS: … that says it is N1,000 or that it in fact it is free.  But the point is that in political parties that are big, or more likely to win, what they will do is that they will go for the upper limit …

 

AO: Absolutely.

 

RS: … to price out people, or like in the current case now, where there was no upper limit, they set their own upper limit of N45 million effectively pricing out everyone!  

 

AO: Or as I always say, preventing people from wasting their money on a fool’s venture.

 

RS: Yes, to come and challenge an incumbent.  Because even if he could raise that N45 million, you would have to think carefully about whether it is a useful venture as you have said.  But from 2023 these caps are quite useful, even though I think they are still high, but you’ve made a great point that if you are in a party where the party says the forms are free, or that the forms is just N5,000 or something, then it doesn’t really matter.

 

The other really interesting one is the one you were discussing with Clement about the amount that can be spent, or “incurred”, as he put it.  Because it’s very clever to say ‘incurred’ because it means that this …

 

AO: … it means that the candidates themselves have to be the ones spending …

 

RS: … the ones that are incurring the cost.  And just to let listeners know what they were before and what they are now, so again, this is section 91 and it says: This places a maximum limit on election expenses that can be incurred by candidates as follows:

Previously it was N1 billion for President, and now it is N5 billion.

Previously it was N200 million for Governors, governorship election, now it’s N1 billion.

For the senatorial seats, previously it was N40 million, now it’s N250 million …

 

AO: Can I just stop you there, because I think that even where we talk about governorship elections, I mean, we all have five fingers but they are not all equal.  So if you have a limit, say you are covering a state, let’s take for example, Borno State, where the land mass …

 

RS: … the geographical area …

 

AO: … the area that you have to cover is quite huge …

 

RS: … unlike Lagos which is the smallest state geographically …

 

AO: … Lagos, or, yes, or some states in the south east where the area is … where you can move 500 metres and you’re in another village, another community and your campaigning is, so that your transport and other expenses,

 

RS: And time!

 

AO: … and I just wonder whether a blanket, a uniform …

 

RS: … ceiling

 

AO: … whether … it’s probably complicated to talk about weighting and taking other factors into account, but it does mean that in certain places you have to decide where you can go and where you can’t go …

 

RS: Well, if you put weighting into account there, it wouldn’t just be time spent travelling or the geographical mass of the state, but also how expensive things are.  So, for instance billboards in Lagos would certainly cost a hundred times more than in some states that are almost rural in nature. I really can’t understand the kind of mechanism or sliding scale that would be applied.

 

AO: No, it’s just something that occurs to me, because in some places you really have to go there in person or you have to get radio time in order to reach your potential …  But I think …

 

RS: We have to finish the figures.  I’m sure people will be wondering …

 

AO: … how much it will take them to be a Councillor!

 

RS: Yes, so we stopped at the senatorial seats …

 

AO: Yes.  Which is N40 million

 

RS: So previously N40 million, now it’s N250 million.

Federal House of Reps, N20 million previously, now it’s N100 million.

State Assembly Election N10 million previously, now it’s N30 million.

Chairmanship of an Area Council, previously N10 million, now N30 million.  Councillorship election, to an Area Council, previously N1 million, now N5 million.

So these are the ceilings.

 

AO: But now, how exactly has INEC fared in the past when it comes to actually monitoring these expenses, because we did see in previous elections, some candidates were able to go around by helicopter …

 

RS:  … and private jets

 

AO: … these were donations.  To what extent are these captured if they are gifts from loyal supporters?

 

RS: Well that’s where that clever sentence there: “incurred by the candidate” as follows …

 

AO: Yeah, but if I make the candidate, if I make my private jet, my private jet available, you know that one I keep in my pocket there …

 

RS: Imaginary private jet …

 

AO: Well, you don’t know, you don’t know.  If I make my private jet available to the candidate and say: I happen to be going to Maiduguri, do you happen to be going to Maiduguri to campaign?  I mean, where … does that count as an election expense, because in other countries, we see that even an incumbent, if he’s going on a campaigning trip and he’s also trying to pretend that he’s combining official business …

 

RS: They have to fuel it …

 

AO: They have to actually apportion …

 

RS: Yes, in some countries, even the president that has …

 

AO: Absolutely!

 

RS: … a presidential jet.  If he’s going to campaign …

 

AO: … he has to pay for it!

 

RS: … he has to fuel the jet, not that the state pays for the jet …

 

AO: And that then becomes part of the expenses.

 

RS: Yes.  But here, if you are incumbent, if you drive your official car or your presidential jet out, the state pays for it, which is absolutely wrong!

 

AO: Absolutely!  And shouldn’t we have something that would bring that in?  And secondly, where you have a situation where the incumbent has all this access,  or a person who is not an incumbent has private jets lent to them, for … say I have a jet leasing company and I decide to lend my jet free of charge, does INEC have the capacity or the authority to say that well, the cost of this has to be ascribed to the candidate, or, can I, as I said, can the candidate pretend that I just hitched a ride with Mr. X?

 

RS: I think that under the law as it stands the president, the candidate can pretend, that my friend gave me a lift in his or her private jet.  Just in the same way that it doesn’t make it clear that if a President or Governor is going to campaign, that they will fuel their convoy from their campaign expenses, or fuel their jet.  It’s not clear, but that’s what it should be!

 

AO: And is there any likelihood that that is going to come about, because in other countries, the … for example in India, the incumbents have to actually step down from office …

 

RS: … to campaign …

 

AO: … so that there’s a completely, or a more level playing field.

 

RS: I think in Nigeria, the more likely scenario is that we should make it clear that state apparatus cannot be abused …

 

AO: Or used at all!

 

RS: Or used at all.  I think that is what is really important, because the power of incumbency in Nigeria now currently rests on the incumbent’s ability to use the state apparatus, not just disproportionately, but to abuse it.

 

AO: And actually, when we talk about that, I’d also like to draw your attention to what concerns us a little bit, the media provisions which make it mandatory on all media houses to give equal time.  Now how does that work? Because some people are in the news all the time, some people are more newsworthy. And others, you don’t hear about them, and so they are forced to always accept speaking engagements or air themselves at public events like fashion shows and cookery shows and so on.

 

RS: Well, the provision says that airtime will be allocated equally to the parties …

 

AO: How does that work?

 

RS: … or to the candidates.  Now, in the absence having a timetable that involves INEC, and INEC says, in alphabetical order, you will be on five minutes at this time, and the next party, Party B and Party C will also be on for five minutes.  In the absence of that, media houses cannot drag candidates to their TV or radio studios. Because if the candidate says: Oh, I’m campaigning somewhere else and I don’t think that your TV or radio …

 

AO: But does it have to be, do you interpret then that this provision means that the person has to be on air, rather than just making a news story.  Because as I said, the … you can say that everybody has their five minutes, and then you know, the first ten minutes of the news is about what the President has done, and, or if … certainly on the government owned media, or what the Governor has done, and then the others have to rely on the private media who are going to charge …

 

AgO: Yes, they have to pay bills for that.

 

RS: Well, that’s where abusing state apparatus also comes in, because …

 

AO: … well, but if the President is speaking to his German counterpart, it is news!

 

RS: Yes, yes, it is news.  It is news. But if it is during election time, then obviously … let’s take for instance now, there are countries where you are not allowed to launch things during election time …

 

AO: Really?

 

RS: Yes, you can’t go around launching bridges, launching …

 

AO: But the bridge can be opened for use anyway.

 

RS: Yes it can be opened.

 

AO: And then the news can show that: This bridge is now open for use.

 

RS: Possibly yes.  But, an incumbent can’t then go around saying I launched this escalator, I launched this elevator, I launched this market stall …  

 

AO: But he can say that there’s now, this escalator, this bridge, this market stall.

 

RS: Well, the people operating it can say it is now open.

 

AO: Yes.

 

AgO: There’s even something I wanted to draw to your attention here.  They’ve increased the limitation on political broadcasting and campaign by political parties so instead of 90 days they now have 150 days

 

RS: It’s not going to apply this time.

 

AO: It won’t apply this time.  It’s going to kill the voters

 

AgO: How does this change the narrative of the bigger parties which have more time to spend more money …

 

RS: 150 days of political ads?

 

AO: Give us a break please!

 

RS: That’s almost half a year from the next election cycle.

 

AO: You see, the thing is that there will be a point at which the voters will … The wise person may decide to save all their energy  for the last minute when everybody has been talking and talking and talking. But as I said, you still face the problem of the fact that certain things that certain people do are going to by themselves just be newsworthy, and you can’t really get round that.

 

RS: There’s something to emphasize, that’s section 100.  It says, the new provision, it says: Public media houses, public media houses that fail to allocate media time equally …

 

AO: So that means the government owned ones.

 

RS: Yes in this case it would be like NTA, FRCN …

 

AO: … or Lagos State Television …

 

RS: Ah ha, it’s public.  For private, I can’t imagine that private can decide to exclude other people anyway …

 

AO: But is there an obligation on them to give them equal air time?

 

RS: Yes, there is.  I don’t think that disproportionately you can say we will feature party A over party B.

 

AO: And now when we talk about media houses, are we just talking about the broadcast media or are we talking about print media?

 

RS: The law does not mention ‘print’.  Sadly.

 

AO: Well it just says media houses, and I do wonder whether that includes print, because a print, a newspaper is a media house?

 

RS: Yes, but it does not specifically mention ‘print’.

 

AO: So it’s included?

 

RS: More or less.  If they are public owned newspapers, or government owned newspapers as we like to say.

 

AgO: What do you think of the penalty?

 

RS: The reason why this leans towards broadcasting is because it says “media time”, and broadcasting is time, whereas print is pages.

 

AgO: It says they pay N2 million or an imprisonment term of 12 months for the principal officers of the media houses.

 

AO: Well obviously the imprisonment threat is more of a deterrent than the monetary threat, because presumably if you’re collecting money to run advertisements or to give air time, you could pay that out of it, but if you are threatened, if you also face imprisonment without the option of fine, then it becomes a real deterrent.

 

AgO: Alright, that’s it on Countdown 2019 NG.  Fantastic discussion we’ve had with Ayo Obe and Rotimi Sankore.  It’s just one half: Friday we’ll be here from 4-6 pm, and you’ll have more opportunities to comment on the big and significant issues on the road to 2019 general elections.  You can of course go on Twitter and tweet some questions to us, or you want some more information @Rotimi Sankore @ideasradiong you can also get some more information.

 

Up next is Godwin Asuquo with the news.