The House of Representatives has proposed special conventions for political parties, where the presidential candidates of the parties will emerge to contest in the country’s general elections.
A party also has the choice of either conducting “direct primaries” or “indirect primaries” to pick its presidential candidate.
The provisions are contained in two harmonised bills – ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Tribunal for the Purpose of Trying Electoral Offences’; and ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigerian Electoral Offences Commission Charged with the Responsibility of Prohibition and Prosecution of Electoral Offences’.
A report on the bills, which is due for consideration by lawmakers, has already been laid before the House. It was presented by its Committee on Electoral Matters.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Gombe State, Mrs. Aishatu Dukku.
A copy of the report showed that for a political party to opt for the direct primaries, it “shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.”
The direct primaries mode is similar to the present practice where party faithful gather at the same location, usually in Abuja, to pick their presidential candidate.
However, in the new proposal by the House, a party, adopting indirect primaries to pick a presidential candidate, must meet certain requirements.
The bill provides, “In the case of nominations to the position of presidential candidate, a political party shall hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each state capital on specified dates.
“A National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.
“The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting in the 36 states and the FCT shall be declared the winner of the presidential primaries of the political party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention.”
Political parties are also to adopt the same procedures in picking their governorship candidates by conducting a “special congress” in each of the local governments in a state.
At the end of voting, the candidate with the highest scores, shall be forwarded to INEC as the person to contest the governorship poll.
The bill makes the same provisions for the primaries of National Assembly members, state legislators and local government aspirants.
The bill, when passed into law, shall empower the Electoral Offences Commission to fix the election expenses of all political parties.
No political party is expected to spend above the amount fixed by the commission on an election.
A political party that acts in violation of the law “is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1m and forfeiture to the commission of the amount by which the expenses exceed the limit set by the commission.”
In addition, the commission is empowered to audit the books of a political party and have detailed information of all donors, including the sum donated to the party.
The bill bars political parties from accepting “anonymous” donations, while cash donations by any contributor shall not exceed N100,000, “unless the party can identify the source of the money or the other contribution to the Commission.”
Furthermore, a political party that fails to disclose its finances or fails to submit accurate audit returns is liable.
“The court may impose a maximum penalty of N200,000 per day on any party for the period after the return was due until it is submitted to the Commission,” the report added. – Punch.