“Money Corrupted Our Recent Elections” – Buhari

By Innocent Oweh

Abuja – President Muhammadu
Buhari admitted on Tuesday that illicit funds were used in recent
elections in the country mainly to buy votes.

He warned that the
growing trend of monetary inducement during elections would have dire
consequences on the polity if not checked.

Buhari also argued
that the dangers were that the influence of money may, in the long run,
subvert free choices by voters and allow unprincipled individuals to
gain access to leadership positions.

The president bared his mind
when he spoke at the National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit,
hosted by the EFCC, with the theme, ‘Curbing Electoral Spending: A
Panacea for Public Corruption’.

He said: “Regrettably, the recent
political experiences have been characterised by the corrupting
influence of money on party politics and electioneering processes.

“This
unwholesome practice has dire consequences on our nations, in
subverting the exercise of free choice by voters, elevated corrupt and
unprincipled individuals to positions of leadership and entrenching the
structures of democracy devoid of accountability.”

While trying
to buttress the ills of vote buying, he said electoral spending
manifested in different forms, hence steps should be taken to
de-commercialise the political process so that true democracy could
survive and thrive.

He said even though the country was not in
short supply of legal frameworks to combat reckless electoral spending,
the provision of section 90 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as Amended)
explicitly puts a cap on the amount candidates for different political
offices must expend on elections, failing which they would be violating
the law.

“Of greater significance is the provision of section 88
of the Act which prohibits a political parties in Nigeria from
‘possessing any fund outside or retaining funds or other assets remitted
to it from outside Nigeria’.

“The philosophical underpinning of
the above provisions and other related provisions of the Act is to
prevent desperate politicians from buying their ways into political
offices at the expense of low-spending law-abiding individuals.”

At
the event attended by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, including
famous anti-corruption advocate, Professor Patrick Lumumba, Buhari said
going forward, his administration would unveil stern measures aimed at
curbing corruption, part of which would involve abolishing of bank
secrecy jurisdictions and cracking down of safe tax havens for corrupt
assets.

Buhari, while giving an insight into how he intended to
fight corruption in his second term, said he would strengthen the
capacity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other
anti-corruption agencies by providing additional material,
organisational and logistical support.

This would also involve
closing existing legislative loopholes, facilitating collaboration with
the judiciary, and strengthening of the criminal justice system.

Other
measures the president said would be adopted include the enforcement of
effective asset declaration by public office holders, ensuring
sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers,
public officials, as well as individuals facilitating corrupt practices.

“We
would ensure comprehensive support and protection to whistleblowers,
witnesses and victims of corruption; adopt and formulate the policy of
‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corrupt practices while
encouraging and honouring those who do not.

“This would also
include educating, mobilising and encouraging Nigerians at the
grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption,
while insisting on the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad
and further strengthening of international cooperation through
information and mutual legal assistance,” Buhari stressed in his address
at the summit.

Meanwhile, acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu,
said a total of 1,207 convictions had been secured by the anti-graft
agency between 2015 and May 2019.

He said between January and May
2019, another 406 convictions were secured through various litigations
instituted by the anti-graft agency against corrupt government
officials.

A breakdown of the convictions showed that 103 convictions were secured in 2015; 195 in 2016; 189 in 2017, and 314 in 2018.

Magu
who noted that significant strides had been made in the fight against
corruption, said the task of taming corruption would remain daunting
unless Nigerians keyed into the project.

He said: “The principles
of democracy have been bastardised over the years by the ruling elite
in some countries across the globe.

“Nigeria, in particular, had a
fair share of the unbearable scourge of a chronic ‘elite-capture
syndrome’. This has primarily been achieved by manipulating the
electoral processes using stolen public wealth to subvert the wishes of
the people.

“Electoral spending by politicians is often linked to voter inducement in Africa and in our local parlance, ‘vote buying’.

“Worthy
of note is the fact that whenever one is induced to sell his vote, he
automatically loses the moral equilibrium to challenge corrupt
tendencies of those elected.

“On the other hand, vote selling by
the electorate has mostly been due to several factors, including lack of
proper political education.”

Source:- Independentng

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