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The Role Of Campaign Finance Law Reforms In The Participation Of Women In The Electoral Process – Augusta Yaakugh, Esq

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides in section 14 that Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.[1] It further declared that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the Constitution derives all its powers and authority.[2] Furthermore, the participation of the people in government shall be ensured in accordance with the Constitution.[3]

These provisions mean that Nigeria is a democratic state and nothing short of the equality of rights, obligations and opportunities are expected. Thus, constitutionally, women and men must have a level playing ground to participate in the political sphere. The elections must be free, fair, and credible thus, the deliberate and unchecked use of money and state administrative resources ought not be the order of the day.

The Electoral Act 2010 which is oversees electoral processes in Nigeria has revealed gaps (majorly the excessive and unchecked use of money for political campaign purposes) that it has become imperative to engage the legislature on amendments (the Constitution) and reforms to the Act. Thus, the continuous call by state and non-state actors for Campaign finance law reforms in Nigeria.

This paper focuses on the role of campaign finance law reforms in the participation of women in the electoral process in Nigeria. However, it is imperative to state that in Nigeria, about 51 percent of women are involved in voting during elections. Despite these, women are still underrepresented in both elective and appointive positions. Available statistics revealed that overall political representation in government of Nigeria is less than 7 percent.[4] This shows that Nigeria has not attained 30 percent affirmative as prescribed by the Beijing Platform of Action.

This is a growing concern to many Nigerians. However, strenuous efforts have been made by government and non -governmental organizations to increase the level of participation of women in politics in line with the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action. In Nigeria, the existent National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35% affirmative action instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions, respectively. Despite that, the national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 percent in elective and appointive positions, which is far below the Global Average of 22.5 percent, Africa Regional Average of 23.4 percent and West African Sub Regional Average of 15 percent.

Whereas the foregoing challenges are limiting women’s participation in electoral process in Nigeria, this paper focuses on the finance challenge and the role campaign finance law reforms in boosting women’s participation in politics.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS AND GENDER EQUALITY IN NIGERIA

The goal of campaign finance laws and regulations is to reduce the advantages of wealthy competitors, level the playing field and increase transparency. Alternatively, the goal may be to give a semblance of transparency without revealing what leading politicians may wish to keep hidden.

There are several elements that may level the campaign playing field, and, inter alia, provide incentives for women’s political participation and equal distribution of campaign resources among women and men. Having equal access to funding will give women candidates the same chance as their male counterparts to reach the electorate to advocate for their election.

Many factors that contribute to existing gender inequalities in politics in Nigeria and they range from patriarchy, stigmatization, low level of education, meeting schedules, finance, political violence, language of party constitutions, religious and cultural barriers. One of the most discussed issues is a lack of access to the funding necessary for women to successfully run for elected office. However, while the reform of campaign finance laws in Nigeria is important for achieving gender equality in politics, the ongoing debates about campaign finance rarely consider the impact of money on the level of representation of both men and women in elected offices. Additionally, discussions about women and men in politics rarely focus on financial issues in any depth.

Competing for political positions in Nigerian requires huge financial backup. Most Nigerian women who seek these positions could not afford meeting the financial obligations therein, despite the waivers given to women aspirants by some of the political parties. And so, women aspirants can do little or nothing to outweigh their male counterparts.

The reform of the campaign finance laws in Nigeria will play a huge role in the electoral process in Nigeria because participating in elections is awfully expensive and women traditionally, do not have access to a lot of resources like their male counterparts. Having laws which regulate how much candidates can spend will ensure a more level playing field for both genders.

The campaign finance laws and regulations in Nigeria can be found in the Nigerian Constitution[5], Electoral Act[6], Guidelines and Regulations for Political Parties[7], Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA)[8], National Tobacco Control Act[9] and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Regulation on the Scope of Banking Activities & Ancillary Matter[10]. The Constitution and the Electoral Act are classified as the principal sources of campaign finance provisions, but they are not the only laws that impact campaign finance in Nigeria.[11]

The aforementioned laws and regulations on campaign finance regulate six broad areas but this paper examines four areas that can impact women participation in the electoral process in Nigeria.

  1. Sourcing of funds and assets

Although the Electoral Act gives the Commission the power to place limitation on the amount of money or other assets, which an individual or group of persons can contribute to a pollical party[12], no such limitation has been fixed by the Commission since 2010 when the law was enacted.

The Act also limits donation to candidates to one million naira.[13] There is currently no sanction for violating the limits on donations. There is also the issue of in-kind donations or other resources apart from money. This means that if the limitation is financial, there are services or other resources worth more than One million naira that can be donated. In some jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, donations are more clearly defined.[14]

The Act is also silent on prohibition of banks and financial institutions from lending money for election purposes.

  • Expenditure and Capping of Funds & other Assets.

The Electoral Act 2010[15] provides a limitation on election expenses by a candidate. Whereas the Act is silent on the expenditure of political parties on the candidate. The implication is that parties are free to expend enormous resources to support their candidates outside of the candidate’s expenditure ceiling.

There is also the issue of the figures mentioned not making sense in today’s realities as these figures need to be reviewed. This provision of the Act conveniently excludes any expenditure made before the notification of the dates fixed for election.  The implication is that these expenses will not be taken into cognizance in determining the total expense.

There is also the issue of huge expression of interest and nomination fees charged by political parties for aspirants seeking elective offices. This starts the process of monetisation of politics. Even though political parties see nominations as an opportunity to raise funds, this should not be allowed to become an impediment to the right to run for elected office. While it is commendable that political parties have reduced and even removed the cost of nomination and expression of interest to disadvantaged groups such as women and people living with disabilities, it has not facilitated the emergence of women as candidates and elected officials due to the large volume of funds required to get to nomination and expression of interest level.

  • Use of Media Resources in Elections[16]

The Act prohibits the use of State Administrative Resources especially as it relates to media to campaign for elections. In subsection (2), the Act states that “state apparatus which includes media. State apparatus is broad enough to include all state and public resources put at the disposal of incumbents for public purposes including finances, government personnel, the security, and regulatory agencies, etc. They are public properties which if used by the incumbents gives him/her a head start way above the resources available to other contestants.

Section 100 (3)(4)(5) and (6) requires public media to provide equal media time[17], equal airtime[18] (public electronic media), and equal coverage.[19] The Act is however, silent on private media companies that charge way more expensive fees for advertising than public media. This loophole leaves room for political parties and candidates to carryon paid advertising and such intensive campaign expenditure is detrimental to political competition as it favours individuals who have connections with affluent donors and side-lines others who do not have these connections, decreasing the quality and plurality in Nigerian politics.

  • Offences, Penalties for Violations and Enforcement.

Donation and spending limits will have no impact on the political process, or on the chances of women to effectively run for office, unless these penalties for violation of the limits are enforced.

The Electoral Act makes campaign finance violations an offence and to enforce compliance with the extant laws, there must be an effective framework in place, one that ensures compliance. The Electoral Act imposes fines, imprisonment, or both in the event of a violation of campaign finance law. The reality is that there has not been any prosecution of violators of the campaign finance provisions due to several factors affecting the system of Democracy in Nigeria and these have put to question the kind of democracy Nigeria practices. For instance, INEC should hold all parties and candidates accountable, instead of going after smaller parties and leaving the more prominent and leading parties to act as they please.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. There should be ceilings on total campaign donations (to political parties and candidates) and sanctions for violating the limits should be put in place. INEC should also be granted the power to review the limitation on campaign donations to political parties and Candidates from time to time based on changes in the value of the naira. A cap on donations can reduce the advantages that some candidates may have, such as access to wealthy individuals or networks, and provide opportunities for other candidates to remain competitive by raising smaller amounts from a larger group of people. This can also help to reduce the probability of candidates who may become subject to control by an interest group and deliver political decisions that favour these interests.

It has also been suggested[20] that the concept of “permissible donor” should be introduced to bar contributions by proxy or in the name of another, persons who in the last five years have been convicted of offences involving fraud or dishonesty, defrauding the revenue, and dealing with psychotropic substances from contributing to the coffers of political parties and candidates. This is to ensure that money from drugs, fraud or other criminal activities is not allowed to influence the outcome of elections.

Banks and financial institutions should also be barred from lending money to political parties and candidates for the purpose of electioneering campaigns. This is to avoid activities and electioneering being treated as an investment.

Where the donation limits are in place, the relative weight of smaller donations increases and women can donate and contribute both symbolically and substantially to their political party, thus increasing their role and visibility both as recipients of donations and as donors to campaigns. Most importantly, it may level the campaign playing field, and, inter alia, provide incentives for women’s political participation and equal distribution of campaign resources among women and men.

  • Ceiling on Campaign Expenditures. Without limitations on campaign spending, wealthy individuals can spend tens of millions of Naira on their election campaigns, making it difficult for others to compete. Typically, women have smaller personal fortunes than men, inhibiting gender equality in politics. Limiting the total amount that can be spent on a given campaign can also change the incentives for political parties and make them more willing to nominate women as candidates. Limits (that are enforced) may diminish the necessity for parties to raise money and to attempt to outspend each other.[21]

Campaign expenditure ceilings level the playing field among parties and provide less incentive to place candidates that have a potential to attract more resources in higher spots on party lists (or to nominate them in winnable constituencies). This change in the incentive structure increases the chances of women candidates being nominated, even if they have less access to significant resources. While further research is needed in this area, expenditure ceilings may also increase the chances of non-incumbents being nominated, as the advantages of incumbency in terms of raising funds will likely be smaller. Since there are more men than women incumbents in almost all countries, this could increase gender equality among candidates.

This method can also improve a candidate’s ability to self-promote at little additional cost, which is beneficial particularly for women candidates.

In line with the proposed provisions of the new act, fees should be pegged and no other forms of fees should be charged.

  • Ban on use of state apparatus and particular types of campaign advertising.

Bans should be imposed on the use of state administrative resources by incumbents to campaign for elections. The state administrative resources include fiscal and monetary resources, regulatory mechanisms and institutions, coercive and law enforcement mechanisms, the official media, etc.

There should also be a ban on some types of campaign advertising. Such bans suppress total campaign expenditure levels, as paid political advertising in broadcast media (on television) is an expensive campaign method. Given this, a ban on paid broadcast advertising can have the same advantages for gender equality among candidates as the general spending limits discussed earlier.

With bans on more expensive and financially intensive campaigns, usage of other less expensive and more unorthodox forms of campaigning – such as social networks, door-to-door campaigning, and campaigning through networks of volunteers – become more popular and provide opportunities for participation of individuals who are not necessarily obliged or able to contribute considerable funding to campaigns. This can particularly benefit women candidates with significant grassroots connections.

  • INEC should hold all parties and candidates accountable, not just going after smaller parties and leaving the more prominent and leading parties to act as they please. Also, the penalties for spending above the ceiling should be felt on the candidates who violate the provisions of the Electoral Act that limits election expenses. This will give room for a level playing field, reduce the advantages of wealthy competitors, level the playing field and increase transparency.

From the perspective of gender representation, transparency increases oversight of political party funding, mitigating the possibility of behind-the-scenes deals and political influence trading that is characteristic of closed political cultures that customarily exclude women or that only include them in a formalistic sense. Generally, transparency undermines the ease of special interest access to political decision-making, which favours men over women, and renders the system more open to women interested in running for office. Increased transparency can also reduce the advantages that candidates with access to illegitimate sources of funding may have in persuading political parties to nominate them. This type of transparency can work in favour of women aspirants; as the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly Resolution on Transparency and Accountability in the Funding of Political Parties and Candidates points out, “political parties are key for the achievement of balanced participation by women and men in political life.[22]

  • Gender and Public Funding. A portion of the available funding should be provided exclusively to female candidates as a way of addressing inequalities in Nigerian Politics. This may help encourage political parties to nominate women.
  • Part of the voter education budget of INEC should be used to educate female candidates on the relationship between political finance and gender equality.

CONCLUSION

Gender inequality in politics is a complex phenomenon and a common theme is that women wanting to run for office have less access to resources than men.  Financial limitations are experienced by women candidates in Nigeria and creating gender equality in politics requires that the gender aspect of political finance is considered, and reforms are made as needed. Unfortunately, discussions about gender and political finance are often based on general assumptions with little empirical support.

This paper has attempted to assist with gender parity in access to campaign resources and improve female politician’s capacity to competitively run in an election in Nigeria. It is hoped that stakeholders in Nigeria will contemplate these issues and how combining discussions between the two subjects can assist in the identification of further reforms to ensure participation of more women in the electoral process in Nigeria. By doing, this will help to promote equal participation between women and men, and real democracy can only be achieved when women and men participate in the political process on equal terms.


[1] S.14 (1) of the Constitution

[2] S.14(2)(a) of the Constitution

[3] S.14(2)(c) of the Constitution

[4] Agbalajobi, D.T. (2009). Women’s participation and the political process in Nigeria: Problems and prospects. A publication of African Journal of Political Science and International Relations Vol. 4(2), pp. 075-082, February 2010

[5] The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended)

[6] Electoral Act, 2010 (As Amended)

[7] 2013- Political Finance Manual, 2017

[8] CAMA Cap C20, LFN 2004.

[9] 2015

[10] No.3, 2010

[11] Ayodele Babalola (2020), The Nigerian Campaign Finance Law, p. 8

[12] Section 90(1) of the Electoral Act 2010

[13] Section 91(9)

[14] A donation is money, goods or services given to a party without charge or non-commercial terms, with a value of over 500 pounds. Some examples of donations include: A gift of money or other property; sponsorship of an even or publication; subscription or affiliation payments; free or specially discounted use of an office. Donations to political parties in the United Kingdom are regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) See http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/data/assets/pdf_file/0014/102263/to-donations-rp.pdf

[15] Section 91(1)-(8)

[16] Section 100 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended)

[17] Section 100 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended)

[18] Section 100 (4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended)

[19] Section 100 (5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended)

[20] https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/candidate-taking-receipts/who-can-and-cant-contribute/-    from the United States of America accessed on 13 December, 2020.
[21]https://www.ifes.org/sites/default/files/political_finance_and_gender_equality.pdf
[22] Transparency and Accountability in the Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns: Resolution adopted by consensus by the 124th IPU Assembly. (2011, April 20). Retrieved June 2, 2014, from: http://www.ipu.org/confe/124/res-3.htm

Augusta Yaakugh is Lawyer, Executive Director, Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development (LIRAD). She is also the Founder of Lex Community NG.

This paper was presented by the Author at review of “The Nigerian Campaign Finance Law “, Nigeria’s first law Textbook on campaign finance written by Ayodele Babalola of AOB Willows LP.

Augusta Yaakugh
Author: Augusta Yaakugh

I'm legal practitioner experienced in corporate law practice and human rights.

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