Vote Buying May Imperil Nigeria’s Democracy…..Ishola Williams

Vote Buying May Imperil Nigeria’s Democracy…..Ishola Williams

….Says We now have Government of Contractors There are growing fears that rising cases of vote buying, which is now commonplace in the country’s elections, may not only undermine the electorate’s right of choice but ultimately imperil its democracy. “This is not too heart warming for Nigeria’s democracy. The case in Ekiti where the politicians

….Says We now have Government of Contractors

There are growing fears that rising cases of vote buying, which is now commonplace in the country’s elections, may not only undermine the electorate’s right of choice but ultimately imperil its democracy. “This is not too heart warming for Nigeria’s democracy. The case in Ekiti where the politicians made hay openly buying votes while security officials simply looked away, is troubling”.

“Our people know that the politicians are corrupt and have immunity. They opt to trade away their vote because money has taken over politics everywhere. Only those who have money or financial backing can win any elections since the entire electoral process is now heavily monetised” says, General Ishola Williams, executive secretary, Pan African Strategic & Policy Research Group (PASPRG).

To arrest the “perennial cases of electorate ambush” by the politicians with deep pockets as witnessed in Edo, Anambra and now Ekiti, Williams want the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ban both the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC), fingered as the two leading culprits in the vote buying sleaze during the recently concluded Ekiti state governorship election. This, he says, will send a strong signal that this brazen attempt to undermine the electoral process will no longer be permitted.

“There’s serious thinking going on now about Nigeria’s democracy, to me what we have now is contractocracy, Government of contractors, by contractors and for contractors”, he says.

Williams who’s also miffed at the request of President Muhammed Buhari for a whooping N242 billion for the 2019 election, hinged the rising election costs in Nigeria to “lack of trust in the electoral system”.

“The opposition believes that INEC is for the government. INEC tries by all means to prove that it is not. In doing so, it must do the needful to prove its impartiality through investment in manpower and technology that are even far more advanced than those in the advanced democracies. This also includes paid and free foreign assistance. These efforts cost a lot of money.”

“This cost will continue to rise as long as there’s lack of trust and confidence in ourselves unlike other developing countries. We spend too much money on election security leaving room for corruption.”

President Buhari had requested the National Assembly to re-allocate the sum of N164,104,792, 65 in the 2018 budget to be spent on the 2019 election.

In total, the President is seeking a huge sum of N242 billion for the INEC and other security agencies to ensure there are no hitches in the preparation for the election. The N242 billion request for 2019 election also surpasses the costs for 2015 and 2011 elections which were N122.9 billion and N135.9 billion respectively.

Although there was a decrease in the cost of the 2015 general elections (N122.9 billion), compared to the cost of the 2011 general elections (N135.9 billion), current projected cost of the 2019 general elections is N189.2 billion. With a projected figure of 73 million registered voters, the projected cost per voter for the 2019 general elections at the official exchange rate of N360:US$ will be US$8.5 per voter, according to a report by Prof Iliasu Adele Jinadu, a former INEC Commissioner.

At the cost of $25 per voter, Kenya which had two presidential elections in a spate of two months in 2017 currently holds the ace of conducting the most expensive election in Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conducted its 2011 election at a staggering $44 per voter while Ghana’s 2016 election cost $18 per voter. Nigeria’s watershed election in 2015 which led to the defeat of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was also done at $8.5 per voter.

Buhari said the re-allocation could be through virement or supplementation of the 2018 budget. The request, the President said, followed the budget submitted to the Presidency by the INEC and security agencies over the election totalling N242 billion.

President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki made the request known on Tuesday at the plenary while reading a letter transmitted to the Senate to that effect by the President.

The letter reads in part:  “As you are aware, the 2019 general election is scheduled to be conducted early in 2019. To ensure that adequate arrangements are made for free and fair election, it has become necessary to appropriate funds to enable the relevant agencies to commence preparations.

“INEC and the security agencies have accordingly recently submitted their requests and these have been subjected to the usual budget evaluation.”

“I’m proposing that the sum of N164,104,792,65 be provided for through virement or supplementation of the 2018 budget. I propose that the balance of N78,340,530, 535 mostly related to personnel allowances, fuelling and other costs not required until election proper be provided in their 2019 budget.

“I’m therefore submitting for your consideration the reinstatement of most of the most critical of such cuts totalling N67,742,216,150 which are summarised in page one. The total amount required to be provided for in the 2018 budget for the 2019 general election and to restore the identified critical projects to the amount earlier proposed is therefore N228,854, 800, 250.”

The President said considering that the implementation of the 2018 budget of N9.12 trillion was challenging, he did not find it expedient that it should be increased.

He therefore appealed to the National Assembly to, in the interest of the nation, to consider the relocation of some of the funds appropriated for the new projects which were inserted into the 2018 budget proposal totalling N 578, 319, 951, 904 to cover the sum of N228, 854,800, 205 required.

But Williams, a former chief of Training and Plans at the Defence Headquarters, is of the view that these huge election costs can be drastically reduced if “we allow states to conduct the governorship elections while saddling INEC with reduced manpower and allocations to conduct only federal elections”.

“We need to start by ensuring that the political parties stop creating insecurity in the electoral process. That will reduce the costs and shameful corruption with inflated budget of electoral security. Do you need INEC with permanent commissioners? The states should do their own guber and state houses of assembly elections with state and community police”, he quips adding that there’s a need for “manpower and forensic audit of INEC”

Responding to the view that the governors may circumscribe the entire electoral process at the state level the way the state electoral commissions have returned only candidates of the governing parties in the LG elections, Williams queries, “what’s the use of restructuring if the states cannot conduct their own elections?”

On the call by Prof I;iasu Adele Jinadu forEelection Tax to be imposed on corporate entities as part of the process of easing the burden of elections on government, General Williams says that “the people may lose faith in the electoral system.”

Jinadu says that ECOWAS countries should consider the feasibility of “imposing an election tax on the private sector in the region, to be administered and used to defray election costs, as part of their corporate social responsibility and investment in the region’s democracy and development”. “The private sector stands to benefit from, and should invest in elections as mechanism for consolidating peace and stability in the region”, says Jinadu, a former dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo…

Williams however counsel that “we can reduce cost of elections by engaging in serious dialogue”, disclosing that he had submitted a concept paper to both INEC and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the issue. He also canvass the need to dust up the suggestions of both the Justice Uwais Commission Report and the Ken Nnamani Electoral Reform Committee on the issue.

The concept note envisage the conduct of a survey with the aim of

  1. Assisting the legal instruments, the structures of the (Election Management Bodies) EMBs and Capacity of each EMB in terms of independence or autonomy, the management planning and programming, the Budgetary and Financial Management System the Procurement System etc.
  2. Do a comparative analysis of the 15 member countries in line with the above and identify strength and weakness of each EMB.
  3. Build up a data of the above for building a Regional Assistance Mechanism for Elections (Pre, and during)
  4. Develop a Regional Mechanism and Institutional arrangement for human, logistics and material assistance to be coordinated by ECOWAS and the West African EMB Network.
  5. Develop a generic modern in-house strategic planning and programming for EMBs to include Business Plan and specific to EMBs Budgetary System.
  6. Draw up an operational Capacity Enhancement plan for coordination and sharing of resources

At the end of the survey, there will be a Validation Workshop at Regional level to meet the following criteria:

  1. A Validation Workshop to test the Electoral Mechanism and Institution similar to the UN model.
  2. Have a database of the capacity of each EMBs for the mechanism to provide assistance for EMBs who need it in whatever areas.
  3. Provide training and exchange of experts to cover gaps.
  4. Minimize corruption in the Electoral Training System.
  5. Fast tracking of the Independence of EMBs for free, fair and affordable elections in West Africa.

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