A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent two Freedom of Information requests to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) asking the parties to “urgently provide information about the spending (and the sources) on the electoral campaigns and other operations linked to the February 2015 general elections.”
“If the requested information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you and your party to comply with our request,” the group said.
In the two separate letters dated 18 November 2014 and addressed to PDP National Chairman Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu and APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the group expressed “serious concerns about the risks of corruption during electoral campaigns for the February 2015 general elections, especially the role of money in politics and the persistent failure generally to comply with national and international law on political party finance.”
The letter signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “Nigerians have the right to know about spending by their political parties especially the major parties like your party with a strong possibility to assume government in the future. Citizens should be able to examine financial transactions of parties and be certain that politicians are working for their voters, not their benefactors.”
The group said that the parties “Cannot take the position that the FOI Act does not apply to them because to do so will seriously undermine citizens’ trust in their political parties and lack of trust will inevitably destroy confidence in the system and decrease citizens’ interest and participation in democratic processes.”
“We believe that without free and fair elections there can be no democracy. However, elections are only one part of the democratic process, and a fair and effective electoral system must be founded in an adequate democratic infrastructure and responsibility of political leaders,” the group also said.
“Therefore, releasing the information will help to address the perception among the citizens that the major political parties in the countries are less transparent and accountable. The lack of transparency and accountability in political finance is seriously undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the democratic and electoral processes, and invariably contributing to denying the citizens the right to effective participation in their own government,” the group also said.
The group said that, “Transparency, accountability, integrity and independence of political parties is also important to achieve greater transparency in public life, to curb the influence of money in politics, to promote a level playing field, and to remove the risks to the independence of political actors and would-be public office holders and the risks of conflicts of interest, including undue influence and corruption in the funding of political parties.
“Disclosing the spending (and the sources) by your party will also contribute to promoting informed voting by citizens who will have all the necessary information they need to make informed choices,” the group further said.
SERAP therefore urged the parties to disclose information on:
The party’s entire budget (incomes and expenditures) and its sources (including those derived from federal, state and other institutions) for the campaigns and other operations related to the February 2015 general elections
The total amounts that have been spent and the anticipated spending and the sources of any such spending related to the February 2015 general elections
Total contributions received by the presidential candidate and candidates for the governorship elections and the sources of any such contributions
The group said that, “By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information being requested. Under the FOI Act, your party is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”
According to the group, “By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing the necessary information are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means. The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act.”