Audio: Probe Saraki’s campaign funding claim, SERAP tells INEC



The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has  requested the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission,  Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to “promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate allegation that Senate President Bukola Saraki spent between N200m and N400m in every state, except the six South-west states, to influence the outcome of the 2015 elections for the All Progressives Congress (APC).”

 The body similarly urged INEC to “investigate the sources of other cases of apparently unexplained campaign financing and contributions for the 2015 elections by politicians and supporters of the two main political parties; that is, the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“We urge you to collaborate with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in any such investigation.”

In the audio recording, Saraki was quoted as allegedly saying he spent between N200 million and N400 million in each of 30 states on the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

While purportedly accusing Buhari of punishing the people of Kwara state by starving them of appointments, he said, only the South-west states did not benefit from the ‘largesse.’

However, Senate President Saraki, has dismissed the audio, which he said was doctored by those he described as “online henchmen and mercenary influencers.”

But notwithstanding the denial, SERAP, in a letter to INEC chair, dated 17 November, 2018, said: “Allegation that one politician spent billions of Naira on elections in several states of the country to support a political party if not thoroughly, and transparently investigated and prosecuted would undermine the public faith in the country’s democracy.

“It also risks distorting electoral processes and reversing the gains in the democratic and electoral processes that have been recorded since the return of democracy in 1999.”

The letter, signed by its Senior Legal Adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, was copied to Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, Acting Chairman EFCC; Dr. Musa Usman Abubakar, Acting Chairman, ICPC; and Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).

According to the body, “such spending, if allowed to continue, can shape policy-making after elections, and improperly influence the decisions taken by the country’s elected representatives who will most likely consider their contributions to political parties’ campaign as ‘investment’ and thus seek returns on their purported investment to achieve electoral success for their party.”

 “Probing the sources of such spending would improve transparency and accountability in campaign spending and contributions. This is essential to curb abuse and mismanagement of Nigeria’s resources, help to balance political competition, foster the integrity of officeholders, rebuild citizens’ trust in the political system’s integrity, as well as ensure that electoral processes and elected officials are not compromised by uncontrolled and unaccountable campaign funding,” it added.

 “Unexplained and unregulated spending to influence the outcome of any election can distort the electoral competition and lead to state capture by wealthy politicians and individuals. SERAP urges you to prosecute anyone suspected to be involved and/or complicit in the alleged unexplained campaign spending, if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence of violations of international standards and national laws,” it further explained.

 

 It’s doctored –Saraki’s aide

Debunking the video, an aide to the Senate President on new media, Mr. Olu Onemola, described the news item as fake, sayingit’s a doctored audio file meant to mislead the public.

Making the clarifications in several tweets at the weekend, Saraki’s aide said there was never a time his principal made such a statement.

“For the record, we always restrain from responding to inconsequential issues that we can otherwise ignore. However, in order to put this issue to rest so that we can move on to real issues, these are the facts,” he tweeted,

“The audio recording that is being circulated online by known anti-Saraki henchmen is a doctored recording. It was probably part of the mix of manipulations that APC decided to employ for today’s election in four LGAs in Kwara south.

“Dr. Saraki, in his response to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in August 2018, stated emphatically that he left the APC because the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.

“Additionally, in that same response to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Dr. Saraki emphasized that he “never discussed any such personal and pecuniary benefits with anybody.” Again, we still challenge that anybody who has contrary facts should come forward.

“Finally, we ask the public to understand that in their desperation to hang on to power, agents of the ruling party are stooping to new lows by doctoring and releasing such audio files. We expect more of such desperate moves. Fake news, remains fake news. Their lies remain lies,” he wrote @OnemolaOlu

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