– During elections, candidates run to various sources to secure financial loans to help them meet their electoral needs
– However, with President Muhammadu Buhari at the helm of affairs, the situation is now seriously biting for members of the National Assembly
In Nigeria, it is believed that politics is like business where an ‘investor’ recoups his money and makes some profit after being elected. But Under President Muhammadu Buhari, the case may be different.
Many political office holders, including members of the National Assembly are not finding it easy to make back their investments. Recall that some cabinet members in the Buhari government had once revealed that they are also passing through financial difficulties.
Some senators have now had reasons to vent their frustration over their inability to make money as expected despite cries from Nigerians that the budget to the National Assembly should still be reduced.
In a report by Daily Trust, just like it is widely known, those seeking political offices often spend beyond the threshold stipulated by the electoral act.
Daily Trust says section 91 of the electoral act 2010 puts elections spending for Senate at N40 million and House of Representatives at N20 million.
For the Senate, violators could pay a fine of N600,000 or spend six months in imprisonment or both while for the House of Representatives, the fine is N500,000 or five months imprisonment or both.
Upon taking his oath of office, Buhari began implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) bringing all public funds into a pool from which money can be taken with permission.
Senator James Manager, a Peoples Democratic Party member representing Delta South, exposed the challenges faced by National Assembly members.
Though Manager has been at the Senate since 2003, he declared that senators were drained before, during and after the election by the public.
Daily Trust quotes the Senator as saying: “Calls are coming from all over the places, bring this and bring that even after the election, we are still spending. In the electoral act, there is specific amount but in practical terms it is not possible. We borrowed and are still borrowing.”
Speaking while screening Professor Okechukwu Ibeano for the position of national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the senator recalled how a senatorial candidate jumped into the lagoon after spending huge sum on election.
“A man who contested for one of three senatorial districts of Lagos in 2011 drove to his bank six months after the election. On his way back, he asked his driver to stop, he walked for few minutes and jumped into the lagoon.
“We are in trouble, Professor please how do we resolve this?” Manager asked Professor Ibeano.
In his own contribution, the chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North), said the amount stipulated in the electoral act was not realistic.
He said: “We have 120,000 polling units across the country and if a Presidential candidate pays N10, 000 to each agent at each of the polling units, he will spend N1.2billion just for agents on election day.”
In his response, Professor Ibeano said: “I definitely feel your frustration but my profession is against borrowing for elections.
“The only way out is for political parties to go back to the 60s where volunteer party members assist without being paid. As long as you pay for everything, you will continue to spend.”
Daily Trust quotes a lawmaker as saying his colleagues were afraid to ask the ministries, departments and agencies for anything.
“We are afraid to ask themnow and they too are afraid to bring anything. Like now that we’re approaching the end of the year, MDAs would bring a lot of things to us, but last year was totally different, and I’m sure this year too will be the same,” the lawmaker said.
The report quoted another senator as saying: “I should have concentrated on my business than coming here because now I don’t have enough time for my business, yet I’m not making anything here.”
Yet another said: “Seriously, this is not what I expected. In fact, I can tell you that I was better off as a businessman than a legislator.
“The story was different before I came here, at least so I was told. Our predecessors enjoyed their stay at the National Assembly, but our own case is different.”