Election forms: Buhari, Atiku violating Electoral Act, lawyers warn

Atiku and Buhari

The almost N60 million which supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar recently spent on presidential nomination forms for the two politicians has triggered renewed debates around campaign finance provisions.
The last 10 days have seen some deeppocketed loyalists of both politicians pick up presidential nomination forms on their behalf at their respective party secretariat, a development that somewhat validated the claim amongst presidential aspirants that their ambition was foisted on them by their supporters.
Abubakar, vice president from 1999- 2007, was perhaps the first presidential aspirant to openly say his nomination form was paid for by his supporters on August 31.
Abubakar was said to be on his way to purchase his nomination form at the Peoples Democratic Party’s national secretariat in Abuja when his loyalists arrived at his campaign secretariat about five kilometres away to inform him that they had already done so on his behalf.
The Atiku Support Group, an umbrella body for those who helped raise the N12 million form fee, subsequently presented the document to him.
When he received the form, Abubakar could not hold back tears at what seemed the generosity of his loyalists.
Although Abubakar’s critics saw the development as a political gimmick, the legal implications were not immediately raised as a concern.
It was when Buhari’s supporters pulled off a similar political gesture that Nigerians began to see a problematic trend.
Supporters of Buhari announced on September 5 that they had paid N45million to the All Progressives Congress for the president’s nomination form at the party’s secretariat.
The Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN) said it paid for the form while Buhari was in China, and would present the document to him when he returned tothe country and took enough rest.
Like the Atiku Support Group, NCAN said it raised the funds through its members from across the country, and both vowed to work harder towards the victory of their respective candidates at the presidential election next February.
Buhari returned to the country on September 7, where he had attended a regional summit with other presidents from West Africa.
But before he returned, critics were already calling on him to reject the form, and the calls intensified following his arrival.
Buhari was expected to receive the forms yesterday at the presidential villa.
If that happens, critics say he would be in breach of the electoral law.
They argue the N45 million which the group spent violates campaign finance provisions in the 2010 Electoral Act.
Section 91 (9) of the law said no individual or other entity shall donate more than N1 million to any candidate, an amount which constitutes only a fraction of the combined N57 million the two groups spent on Messrs Buhari and Atiku.

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