Ahead of the 2019 general elections, renowned lawyer and human rights activists, Femi Falana (SAN) has faulted the commercialization of nomination forms by political parties for candidates seeking to contest elections on their platforms saying it is illegal.
He said a court has declared such fees for nomination forms as illegal in a case he was part of and led by the late Chief Gani Fawehunmi in 2003.
His declaration was coming ahead of the Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections in July and September respectively later this year.
He regretted that despite President Muhammadu Buhari expressing disappointment that he took a loan of N27m to obtain the nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest the 2015 elections, President Buhari had not been able to change the practice despite a court outlawing it.
He spoke in his keynote address on Monday in Lagos at a National Stakeholders Summit organised by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and DFID, with the theme: “Engaging the 2019 Electoral Process for Improved Citizens’ Participation and Public Confidence.”
Speaking at the event, the chairperson of TMG, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the organisations would not relent in ensuring that the nation’s democracy remains safeguarded from sliding into the doldrums.
“As a people, we cannot continue to live in denial pretending that all is well with our electoral process. It is important for all to appreciate the fact that there are still lots of work to do, especially in an era where innovation, advancement and improvement in every human endeavour have become a global phenomenon,” Akiyode-Afolabi said.
Falana also called for the abolition of security votes for state governors, saying it enriches them in manipulating the electoral process at the detriment of citizen’s rights and national development.
He said, “It is illegal and prohibitive to collect nomination forms. When you do that, you are excluding people from participating in the democratic process. In 2003, INEC attempted to collect money for nomination forms. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi led us to court and the court held that it is illegal and unconstitutional to collect nomination forms, after we have dragged not less than seven to eight state governments to court over money for nomination forms for local government elections.
“The TMG may wish to put these cases together for people to know their rights. By the way, what is a nomination form? A sheet of paper! What is embarrassing for some of us is that President Muhammadu Buhari complained that he was asked to pay N27m in 2015 for his own nomination form and had to take a loan to raise the money. Now that Buhari is the President of Nigeria and leader of the ruling party (APC), what has happened? I think TMG will also want to take this up, especially the legality of nomination forms so that you can open the democratic space for people to contest and participate in the electoral process.”
He said that apart from President Buhari, the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), have not paid their party dues as party members because parties are no longer run on the basis of dues from members.
“When I was ruling for election in Ekiti State, there were old men and women who went to their rooms and pillows and brought out letters personally signed by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, acknowledging receipt of contributions to the party (Action Group). It was acknowledged by the party leader and that was how parties were run. And if you were in a public office, up to the Second Republic, you were charged 10 per cent of your legitimate salaries. I’m not talking of running cost and others,” Falana said.
On his part, the INEC Director of Publicity and Voters Education, Mr. Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, also expressed concern over the spate of commercialization of elections and voting on Election Day.
“In a society where poverty is pervasive, it is difficult to persuade voters especially the youths to forgo what they think is their immediate gain of taking few thousands or hundreds of naira for a long term benefits and the fact that those politicians who pay may not be morally bound to deliver their promises.
“It is important to point out that they are sacrificing long term benefits at the expense of their rights to good governance. We are taking all steps to ensure that the 2019 elections were successful. We are undergoing training, enhancing the card readers, building confidence and transparency in all that we do,” Uzzi said.
He also expressed concern over the uncontrollable nature of the social media, saying most of the reports therein are unsubstantiated and thus capable of undermining the success of the coming elections.
He said, “We all know that the social media is generally not regulated and most of the things in the social media are not substantiated, some of the comments are not even from Nigeria but different parts of the world. The issue of regulation of the social media and the media is a bit of concern to everybody, unlike the mainstream media. You don’t have regulatory bodies for social media. So basically, we say that you should be more circumspect on your sources of information, so you have to be careful on relying on social media as main source for your information. There are official channels for official information.”