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High costs of conducting elections in Nigeria

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Election materials. PHOTO: Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

The ever spiraling costs of conducting free, fair, peaceful and credible elections here in Nigeria, that would be acceptable to all the stakeholders, should be a source of deep concern to well meaning citizens.

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it spent N112.9 billion for the exercise back in 2011(for 73.5 million voters), N108.8 billion in 2015(for 68.8 million voters) but has risen to N242 billion (for 84 million voters), as approved in the budget for the 2019 elections.

We should be worried because these humongous amounts stated exclude the costs that the candidates of various political parties spend (or is it waste?) on obtaining Nomination Forms, bribing party bigwigs, printing and displaying colourful posters, media adverts, renting crowds, foot soldiers and hiring thugs! By the time we add that of sundry logistics on transportation, paying for venues and feeding their supporters, the costs must have tripled.

In fact, the revelation at a two-day Learning Conference on the Regional Cost of Politics that estimated N1 trillion as what was actually spent by INEC, political parties and candidates for the 2015 elections immediately ignited outrage and disapprovals from concerned stakeholders.

Some are of the opinion that the high cost remains the faulty foundation of the corruption that pervades the political space in Nigeria of today.

Amongst those who flayed the high cost of elections were legislators, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, President of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG and Mr. Ibrahim Musa, Executive Director of the Civil Society Advocacy and Legislative Centre, CISLAC.

Furthermore, some lawmakers in the House of Representatives described the high figure as provided by INEC as unrealistic. They however, put the blame on civil servants, who they claimed, inflate the cost of elections to their benefit.

It was revealed at the conference that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, expended N8.74 billion in traceable media and other related expenses in the 2015 elections while all the other opposition parties put together expended N2.91 billion for similar activities.

On his part, the Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Prof. Bolade Eyinla disclosed at the opening of the conference organised by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy that: “In the last general elections in Benin Republic, the core cost was $15 million, and then you had a candidate who, alone, spent about $32 million.

In Nigeria, our core cost was $547 million. It is perhaps the most expensive elections that we have ever seen. I have seen figures somewhere of between $1.5 billion to $2 billion and believe me; it is true if we knew what happened”.

Still analyzing the huge cost of the conduct of the 2015 elections, Adebowale Olorunmola the Country Representative of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy stated that it was higher than 2011 polls.

According to him, these are traceable expenses which were spent on media advertisements, campaign materials among others, to the exclusion of money spent in underhand dealings and the use of state-owned facilities including stadia for campaigns and other political activities.

While agreeing with Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who doubles as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC, that the increasing cost of elections in the country is partly due to security and logistical reasons, its deleterious effects on the economy and ultimately, the Human Development Index (HDI) of the average Nigerian is telling.

According to Yakubu, for the four-year cycle of elections, the cost of voter registration and the compilation of credible voters’ register, recruitment and training of electoral officials keep escalating.

So is that of the provision of electoral logistics, election security, civic and voter education, procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials.

Not left out are other expenditures related to deployment of electoral technology, undertaking regular engagement with stakeholders and handling of pre-election and post-election litigations are enormous.

One must be realistic to agree also, that the task of meeting such extensive expenditure has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in the ECOWAS Sub- region. In fact, some countries are finding it tasking to fund the elections.

It is against this background that the Governing Board of ECONEC inaugurated the study to explore what can be done as election managers, working together with national stakeholders and development partners, to find ways to reduce the cost of elections.

The truth of the matter is that Nigeria cannot go on this way by expending stupendous sums of our national patrimony to get politicians elected to public offices.

No! As an INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Simbine said, the level of money in politics “is responsible for the kinds of governance we have at any given time. If you make an investment, you would want to reap from that.” Well said.

As yours truly has reiterated over the years, we cannot have and sustain good governance with the high costs of accessing political power, the obscene costs of conducting elections and the high pay packages of politicians in power.

There is of course, the high dependency syndrome of the poor electorates on their so called elected representatives.

That is especially, those who they erroneously believe as doing them some favour when they dole out raw cash, instead of strengthening the institutions that would drastically reduce the twin evils of poverty and ignorance. A change of mindset is therefore, imperative.

The ideas of deploying policemen and soldiers all over the country and closing down institutions of learning during elections, as if we are preparing for war, must be done away with.

Elections in the neighbouring Republic of Benin and Ghana are devoid of such political shenanigans. Let us borrow a fresh leaf from them.

Other factors to eradicate are the huge costs of nomination forms, campaigns and pay package of politicians as well as the winner takes all attitudes.

Proper digital registration of children at birth and alerting them when they are of voting age as it applies in India should be adopted here.

Above all, politics should be for public service instead of the self. The time to sacrifice the self for the Nigerian state is now!


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