2023: Abuse of human and administrative resources
State Administrative Resources are public resources at the disposal of the three tiers of government for the day-to-day performance of state duties and functions. These resources could be financial, administrative/institutional, media, regulatory, coercive, legislative, etc.
For financial resources, public funds secured through kickbacks and over-invoicing of contracts can be used to finance the campaign of the incumbents. Public funds directly stolen from the budget can also be used to fund campaigns. Institutional resources, including human and material resources, could be cornered by the incumbents for their use. Government-owned media can dedicate more time to incumbents while disparaging the opposition in abuse of media resources. Law enforcement agencies can intimidate the opposition and their supporters, unduly or maliciously prosecute them while regulation of the opposition may become more strict and more demanding than usually required of incumbent parties and candidates. The legislature’s power of law-making and oversight can be abused to frustrate the opposition.
By S.95 of the Electoral Act, 2022, it is provided that, “(1): A candidate and his or her party shall campaign for the elections in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be determined by the commission. (2) State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election.” Furthermore, the 2013 Political Parties Code of Conduct had provided that, “All parties shall discourage their members in government from using their power of incumbency to the disadvantage of other parties or their candidates during campaigns.”The earlier 2011 Political Parties Code of Conduct in paragraph 9 stated that all political parties shall separate party business from government business. As such, political parties shall not utilise public resources for any party activity and shall not permit any of its sponsored candidates holding public office to use public resources for the purpose of political campaigning in elections.
The underlying jurisprudence on safeguarding SAR and prohibiting their deployment to elections is to create a level playing field for all candidates and parties. Deploying SAR in favour of incumbents will undermine democracy by creating an uneven playing field in favour of incumbents and their parties. Furthermore, this will undermine the constitutional non-discrimination provisions found in the Fundamental Rights chapter. In addition, putting public assets at the incumbent party’s disposal in its drive for re-election negatively influences the quality of governance, since the diversion of resources incurs financial costs for the institutions involved and may reduce the quantity or quality of services provided to the public.
However, the rule against the deployment of SAR seems to be one of those sections of the Electoral Act, 2022 more obeyed in the breach. Candidates and political parties seem not to properly understand the context of this provision. A few examples of key abuses of SAR since the 2023 campaigns started will be listed to demonstrate the violations.
In August 2022, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, was appointed as the official spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation. He has been most visible in that capacity throughout the electioneering period to the detriment of his official duties. Festus Keyamo is paid at the tax-payer’s expense as a minister. He is expected under the law to dedicate 100 per cent of his time to the issues and challenges facing the ministry. A minister is not a part-time job that can be combined with other assignments. The fact of being paid with public funds disqualifies him from dedicating his time for partisan purposes and if he must do so, he should be seen to be speaking for all registered political parties. Thus, instead of the APC spending its resources to hire a spokesperson, the treasury was compelled to pay for the party whilst other parties paid from their private resources. This is an abuse of federal human resources.
The use of official vehicles and aircraft by the incumbent APC candidate during campaigns has been very visible. On October 24, 2022, the Punch newspaper reported that Senator Remi Tinubu, the wife of APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu; and Nana Shettima, wife of Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shetttima, on Monday, arrived in Makurdi, Benue State, aboard a Nigerian Airforce aircraft to commiserate with flood victims in the state. The duo had no business with the presidential aircraft and this was done in abuse of the law.
On November 16, 2022 the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), and his team flew at least four state aircraft to the presidential campaign inauguration of Tinubu and Shettima in Jos, Plateau State. Some of the aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet were PAF Boeing 737 with registration number 5N-FGT, PAF Nigerian Air Force helicopter with registration number HIPO04. Also on the ground at the airport was PAF helicopter with registration number 5N-FGI, NAF aircraft F900 with registration number NGR961. Findings show that the airport lacks adequate parking space for the high number of aircraft arriving in the state capital. As such, some of the aircraft were forced to fly to Abuja to park, which is about 30 minutes flight from Plateau. It made it easier for the pilots of the VIP jets to return to pick up their passengers.
Political campaign finance rules dictate that state resources like aircraft should not be deployed to advance the interest of the ruling party. The use of state-owned aircraft by the president and his team for the campaign in Jos tips the balance in their favour even when they are already advantaged in the contest by their incumbency.
This is not an exhaustive list of abuse of SAR towards the 2023 elections. Subsequent articles will bring out more facts. In the final analysis, it is imperative that parties and candidates stop the abuse of SAR while the Independent National Electoral Commission is called upon to issue cease orders to parties indulging in this mischief.