The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega on Monday blew the whistle for the commencement of campaigns by political parties.
However, parties can only campaign for their presidential and National Assembly candidates, effective from Sunday, while electioneering for governorship and state assembly candidates would have to wait till November 30.
According to Jega’s Chief Press Secretary, Kayode Idowu, INEC’s action is anchored on section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which states that ban on political campaigns shall be lifted 90 days before the polling day.
The presidential and National Assembly elections have been fixed for February 14, 2015 while the governorship and House of Assembly polls will hold on February 28.
Idowu, in an interview with reporters in Abuja, said the commission would, however, monitor the campaign spending by political parties and their candidates.
Therefore, he added that the commission has put in place a system to ensure that it tracks campaign spending by political parties and their candidates, as directed by the law.
Though the commission said it had saddled its department on political parties’ registration and monitoring with the task of ensuring that parties and their candidates act within the limit of the law, it added that it can only do so if the offence has been committed.
Section 91 of the Electoral Act, 2010 put maximum spending by a candidate for presidential election at N1 billion; N200 million for a governorship hopeful while a person vying for either senatorial or House of Representatives seat has a spending limit of N40 million and N20 million respectively.
The amount for a House of Assembly candidate is N10 million; the same with anybody running for local government chairmanship.
Idowu said unlike 2011 general election, INEC had created a department to monitor spending of candidates in the 2015 election.
According to him, “The commission has put structures in place to track expenditure. That structure did not exist in 2011. And we could not do much in that regard.
“Now we have been able to put structure in place to track expenditure and we are going to be doing that. But the situation now is that we can only know whether a person has over spent when he or she has spent it.
“What the law anticipates is that we have put ceiling on spending and we will now monitor to know whether we can make a case about it.”
The law imposes a fine of N1 million or 12 months imprisonment or both on violators of presidential spending limit and N800,000 or nine months imprisonment or both on those who burst the spending limit for governorship.
Idowu explained that INEC can only work within framework of the law.
On INEC’s inability to speedily deal with electoral offenders, he said the commission did not have the capacity to handle the magnitude of electoral offences and might find it difficult handling the one that might arise from the breach of campaign spending.
“We have said over and again. That is why we have always called for election tribunal.
“But if the law says INEC should do something even within the constraints, INEC will do what is possible within those constraints. “INEC will do what it has to do within the framework of the law as it exists at the present.
“If the law makes a certain provision; for instance, the law says we should publish the audited yearly accounts of the political parties and that is what we have always done.
“We audit and publish that is what the law says we should do. So after we publish, what next? There are places where you have offences and you don’t have sanctions stated.,” Idowu said.
On whether INEC will be liaising with banks to track the movement of funds during campaigns, Idowu said it was left for the department saddled with the responsibility to decide. But he quickly added that expenses on advertisement, among others, will be added up to the spending limit of each candidate.