Did purchase of N45m form for Buhari breach electoral laws?

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The purchase of the nomination form by the group has generated and elicited diverse views and unnecessary controversy. The provision of the ...


The purchase of the nomination form by the group has generated and elicited diverse views and unnecessary controversy.

The provision of the Electoral Act forbids someone or a group from donating more than N1m to a candidate.

One can erroneously conclude that the group’s gesture offends Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act which states, “No individual or other entity shall donate more than one million naira (N1,000,000) to any candidate.”

The question that one needs to interrogate is, can one genuinely say Mr President is a candidate at this stage? The answer is a resounding no, because he is just an applicant. In other words, this law will only be applicable or activated when the application form has been submitted and the applicant wins the party primary and clinches the ticket. That is when the applicant will become a candidate of the party. As it is today, the President is an ordinary applicant, he is not a candidate yet. It is only after clinching the party ticket at the primary that he will formally become a candidate and that is when the act of donating such an amount will run afoul of the provision of the Electoral Act.

The action of the group, to the best of my knowledge, has not contravened the provisions of the Electoral Act.

The President can accept the form. He cannot be liable to the punishment stipulated in S91 (10) (a) of the Act, which states that, “A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section commits an offence and on conviction shall be liable – (a) in case of presidential election, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000.00 or imprisonment of 12 months or both.”

As of today, the President is an applicant. He is not a candidate yet.

Words in an Act must be given their literal interpretation. The provision says candidates can only emerge after the party primary, not before. •Mr Harrison Osenum (An Abuja-based legal practitioner)

First of all, it is a form of deceit. If the President pretends that he does not have N45m to buy the form, it is all political deceit and it is orchestrated to show that he is a man of integrity. It is a fallacy. Also, it is a breach of electoral laws. Who purchased the form? Nigerians should be able to ask for their (donors) names, the businesses they do and the tax they pay. If they are the alter egos of their companies, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990 (as amended) does not allow any company to make donations in that manner.

So, in all forms, they have breached the laws of this nation. Apart from the whole thing being a form of deceit of the highest order, it makes  mockery of the conscience and integrity of Nigerians. There are certain things we need to know; we must do away with some sentiments and orchestrated evil.   In 2015, he (President) told us that he took a loan to purchase the presidential form. Which bank gave him the loan and at what interest rate? What was the collateral? So, the purchase of the form was a breach of the laws. •Sam Abasilim (A Benin-based legal practitioner)

There has been no breach of our electoral laws in this case. The section of the Electoral Act being cited by some analysts is relevant only as it affects a candidate of a political party. President Muhammadu Buhari is not yet a candidate; he is an aspirant and there is no place in our laws which stops an aspirant from getting the support of his kind-hearted supporters.

Those who came together to buy the form for Mr President told everyone that they were a  group made up of millions of the President’s supporters and if you go to developed democracies, crowdfunding is encouraged.

Millions of people can pull together N100 each and it will surpass the N45million used to buy the form. I don’t think this should be an issue because no law has been broken as far as I am concerned. •Abdullahi Jalo (A legal practitioner / politician)

The purchase of nomination forms is in vogue. President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku  Abubakar, have become beneficiaries. Let us look at Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which says that no individual or entity shall donate more than N1m to any candidate.

Now, the problem here is: we do not know whether an individual donated N45m for the purchase of the form or a group of people pulling resources together purchased the form for the President.  The question to be answered is whether it was an individual or an entity that was responsible for the donation of more than N1m for the purchase of the President’s form. The entity being referred to here has to be an incorporated company, so no company too can donate more than N1m for the purchase of the President’s nomination form.

If the group has say, 10 members, it means that one person donated more than N1m which contravenes Section 91 (9) of  the Electoral Act and the President is liable to one year imprisonment or a fine of N1m or both.

If the entity is not recognised by the law, in essence it is not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, that means an individual has donated more than N1m to purchase the President’s nomination form. Once the group is not registered by CAC it becomes an individual and the person has donated more than N1m. Even if it is recognised by CAC, it still cannot donate more than N1m for the purchase of the president’s nomination form.

There is the need for the stakeholders to comply with the Electoral Act in the paramount interest of the country and the electoral process •Mr Issa Manzumah (A former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin branch)

The provisions of the Electoral Act is very clear and unambiguous. Section 90(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) specifically gives the Independent National Electoral Commission the power to limit the amount of money or assets an individual can contribute to a political party. The section provides as follows:

“The Commission shall have power to place limitation on the amount of money or other assets, which an individual or group of persons can contribute to a political party.”

The above section deals with limitation of contribution to political parties, but not to a candidate. Consequently, the power to limit contribution to political parties rests squarely with INEC.

The Act, in addition to the above power, goes further in section 91(9) and (10) respectively, to prohibit and criminalise donation of up to N1m by an individual or a group to a candidate. Various punishments are provided for such a compromised candidate by section 91(10), ranging from three months, imprisonment and N100,000 fine or both, to 12 months, imprisonment and N1m or both.

In the case of an individual or any other entity who donates more than N1m to any candidate of a political party, section 91(11) criminalises this by imposing punishments ranging from nine months, imprisonment or N500, 000 fine or both, to such an individual or entity.

A candidate by law is different from someone showing interest in an electoral position. As it is by law, Buhari is not yet a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, but a sitting President that has expressed interest in contesting the presidential seat again.

The purchase of a form worth N45m for Buhari to my mind is not in breach of the electoral laws.

The Act merely deals with “purchase of nomination and expression of interest form” and not “donation” to a candidate or an aspirant.

It is when a person actually participates in the primaries that he can be called a candidate. The reverse of this is that all other persons merely seeking to participate in the primaries are not yet candidates.

They may just be described as interested persons intending to be aspirants. As a necessary corollary, a candidate is a person who has contested in the primary as an aspirant, won the primary, and is now participating or contesting in the general elections with candidates from other political parties.

Buhari has not breached any electoral law. The provision of the law is far different from political sentiments. •Habeeb Whyte (A legal practitioner)

Compiled by:

   Success Nwogu; Femi Makinde; Samuel Awoyinfa; and Alexander Okere


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