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Poor funding threatens parties
From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

MOST of the 30 registered political parties lamenting their poor financial situation, last week went to President Olusegun Obasanjo to plead for funds.

A letter dated September 21, 2004 to the Presidency and signed by Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, the leader of the African Renaissance Party (ARP), one of the distressed parties, stated that if funds were not received urgently, the parties would crumble.

Part of the letter titled: "Urgent release of political party grants" reads:

"This letter implores Your Excellency to appreciate the enormity of stifling financial difficulties confronting fledging political parties in Nigeria today as a result of the prolonged delay in providing and releasing constitutionally guaranteed annual grants to political parties.

"The national headquarters of many political parties are no longer functioning as rents cannot be met and staff cannot be paid. In the African Renaissance Party, staff salaries have not been paid since January 2004, while the rent has been due since April 2004.

"The National Assembly... dealt a most unkind blow against the spirit of multi-party democracy, against fairness, equity and good conscience by neglecting or refusing to appropriate even a kobo as annual grants to political parties contrary to the 1999 Constitution...

"Your Excellency, I call on you to use your good offices to urgently come to the rescue of political parties by ensuring the immediate release of constitutionally envisaged grants to enable them discharge their functions. This is necessary since I do not believe that it is the intention of your administration to strangulate the new parties which were in any case, most reluctantly registered, out of existence, for clearly that cannot be the path to national greatness or African Renaissance."

At a recent parley, four other parties called on the government to comply with the constitutional provisions by releasing the annual grants to parties without delay.

The four parties are the ARP, All Peoples Liberation Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria and the Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP).

Among the issues the parties deliberated on are grants to the parties, Electoral Reforms, all-inclusive Government, National Conference and Security in the land. The communiquZ at the meeting stated that:

  • the parties hereby demand that the government direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to release the annual grants to the parties without delay;

    • that all such delays in the future, would attract litigation, to ensure that the government complies with Section 228 (c) of the 1999 Constitution;

      • the parties see the delays in releasing their annual grants as a deliberate attempt to strangulate the parties and a ploy to turn the country into a one-party state;

        • the parties averred that the non-release of their annual grants by the INEC is an violation of Section 228 (c) of the 1999 Constitution;

          • the parties agreed that INEC has a constitutional responsibility to include parties' annual grants in its annual budgets;

            • withholding the annual grants militates against their capacity to plan, mobilise and execute their programmes;

              • the parties demand that in compliance with Section 225(5), of the 1999 Constitution, the INEC has failed to give the parties guidelines on the disbursement of their grants;

                • the parties agreed that without funding as provided for in the 1999 Constitution, mere registration of parties would not amount to opening up the political space;

                  • the government should without delay, establish an Electoral Reforms Committee, comprising representatives of all registered parties;

                    • the previous efforts at voters' registration has been without provisions for regular review;

                      • the government should assign the responsibility of voters' registration to the National Population Commission, as this will enable voters that have come of age to register even on daily basis;

                        • the appointment of INEC commissioners should henceforth be made to reflect the membership of parties in as this will forestall the rigging of elections and other electoral malpractices;

                          • henceforth all litigation arising from elections must be disposed of before candidates elected to the various offices are sworn-in and

                            • all contentious sections of the Electoral Act, will henceforth be challenged in the courts.

                              On INEC, the parties said that in view of the fact that the commission exists partly because of the parties, the parties should therefore appoint auditors for the commission. The position of the parties is against the backdrop of the recent auditing of the Accounts of the parties conducted by INEC.

                              Section 225 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that every political party shall, at such times and in such manner as the INEC may require, submit to the INEC and publish a statement of its assets and liabilities.

                              Section 225 (2) also states that every political party shall submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission, a detailed annual statement and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets together with a similar statement of expenditure in such forms as the Commission may require.

                              The auditing conducted by the INEC was necessitated by the monetary disbursement made by the commission before the 2003 election where some parties got about N9 million each.

                              Given the state of ethnic agitation in the country, the parties suggested that the government has a duty to listen to all segments of society and carry everybody along.

                              Calling for consensus and dialogue, the parties noted that a national conference on the Nigerian question could not be delayed in the interest of the nation. They advocated for a meeting of segments of the society, with a view to setting up the agenda for the National Conference.

                              The hope of the parties on the release of the grants was further dashed when the chairman of the INEC, Dr. Abel Guobadia recently said budgetary provisions made for the annual grants to parties was deleted before the 2004 appropriation Act was endorsed.

                              In that instance, the Commission's boss placed the blame for the non-release of subventions to the parties on the doorsteps of the President and the National Assembly.

                              The INEC chief had said: "In the 2004 budget proposals of the commission to the government, the commission requested for N600 million as grants to the parties. We followed up the request at the hearing with a strong case stressing the importance of the grants to the parties. Regrettably, the 2004 Appropriation Act made no provision for this grant.

                              "The commission itself suffered serious budget reduction in the 2004 Appropriation Act. We proposed over N800 million for overhead costs but only N7 million was provided in the budget. This under-funding has seriously limited the ability of the commission to perform its vital tasks and meet its inescapable obligations."

                              Guobadia announced that the commission has completed parties annual finances, which will provide the parties with information and guidelines on matters relating to funding, sources of funds, expenditure limits and instructions on how to complete the necessary reporting forms and to keep accurate financial records.

                              On the issue of audit of parties' accounts, he disclosed that the private auditors appointed by the commission had difficulties locating the offices of the parties just as he alleged that most of the parties did not co-operate with the auditors.

                              "A few auditors also alleged that some of the parties did not extend the necessary co-operation required of them to facilitate the assignment of examining their account books and records. We appeal to them to co-operate with the auditors so that the exercise of auditing the accounts of all the parties can be brought to a speedy conclusion."

                              The National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, told The Guardian in Abuja that one way to end the situation where parties will be begging for funds is for the electoral law to be amended.

                              He said that apart from denying adequate fund to other parties, the current electoral arrangement has made it easier for the party in power to call the shots in deciding who wins election even at the state and local council levels.

                              "The beginning of democratic wisdom is to have electoral reforms that are transparent and acceptable to all stakeholders. If you do not do have electoral reforms and comply with constitutional provision, political opposition will die," he said.

                              He added that, "if the PDP government wants to collapse the parties, the parties will collapse on them."


























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