Thursday, December 25, 2014

N21bn Donation: We Can’t Probe Donors, Says INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission has   said that only security agencies can investigate any party, person or company that violates any part of the country’s Electoral Act.

The commission which however admitted that it had the power to prosecute violators of the Act, explained that before it could do so, it must have concrete evidence before it.

INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, stated this following an enquiry by The PUNCH on whether the commission would investigate and prosecute the Peoples Democratic Party, companies and individuals who donated over N21.27bn to President Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering.

Osaze-Uzzi said, “Before you prosecute, won’t you investigate? Before you prosecute somebody, the person has to be investigated. If a person shoots another man on the street, the police cannot just charge him to court. They will have to follow a process.

“Don’t forget that INEC has no powers to investigate. But it has powers to prosecute. It is the security agencies that investigate. We don’t have investigative powers; but we have prosecutorial powers. If they have investigated and found out that somebody was wrong, we will prosecute that person.

“It is after investigation that we can prosecute. And there must be an evidence that a crime has been committed.”

When asked if the commission had contacted any of the security agencies over the issue, he replied: “I can’t say yes or no as of now.”

A national commissioner in INEC, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity from Canada, also said he was not aware if security agencies had started probing anyone over the donations.

He said, “I am not aware whether the PDP is under investigation for now. I don’t know and I have not asked. I can find out later or after the holidays.

“Do you know of anybody that spent more money for the party? Do you know anybody who violated the Electoral Act? Are you familiar with the law of donation of money to political parties? If yes, can you tell me one person who has broken that law? Is it a question of whose money or that they have exceeded the limit? Don’t deal with morality, deal with legality.

“There is a limit to what a sitting President can spend. Give me evidence that the President has spent over what he was supposed to have spent. Unofficially, I don’t know if investigation by security agencies is now on because I am out of the country and I have not asked colleagues in relevant departments. There is a process that would be followed.”

When contacted, the Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said the Police did not know about the donations and the alleged violation of the electoral law by the donors.

“So far, there is no complainant, before us “Ojukwu added.

Some lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria, had on Tuesday called for the prosecution of the PDP and those who donated   the N21. 27bn for   electioneering.

They said in separate ineterviews with The PUNCH     that the donors breached the Electoral Act by exceeding the limit stipulated by the Electoral Act.

Section 91(9) of the Act   reads,   “An individual or other entity shall not donate more than N1,000,000 to any candidate.”

Sub-section 10 of the same section adds that   a presidential candidate “who knowingly acts in contravention of this section commits an offence and on conviction is liable to a maximum fine of N1m or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.”

Section 91(2) of the same Act states, “The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be N1bn.”

Meanwhile, the   International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe the sources of funds donated for Jonathan’s presidential campaign.

The Chancellor of the ISSJHR, Dr. Jackson Omenazu, described the development as a flagrant abuse of the Electoral Act.

Omanazu,   in a telephone interview on Wednesday, explained that the donation     was aimed at gaining a ‘criminal advantage’ over other political parties.

He observed that since 80 per cent of the donors had at one time or the other been entrusted with public funds, the probability was high that some of them must have mismanaged such.

Omenazu said, “ From our investigation, 80 per cent of the donors are those who are being entrusted with public funds. What they (PDP governors and other donors) have done is to morally kidnap Mr. President so that he will not be able to ask them to give account of how they managed public funds at their disposal.

“The PDP governors should have donated from their individual pockets and not money belonging to their states. It is a flagrant abuse of the required financial regulations and there is a need for EFFC’s intervention.

“Mr. President’s silence is a tacit approval of corruption. Political parties’ fund raising is supposed to come from the grassroots.”

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