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Federal legislator misleads about the law and Nigerian politicians’ campaign cash

The house of representatives majority leader Alhassan Doguwa recently claimed the law allowed him N70 million – in cash – for election expenses. We checked this and three other eye-watering statements.

This article is more than 9 months old

  • House majority leader Alhassan Doguwa referred to Nigeria’s cash shortage crisis in a recent press conference about what the law said about campaign finances.

  • His claim that house of representatives members seeking re-election could spend a maximum of N70 million on their campaigns is incorrect. The limit applies to all candidates.

  • And claims that candidates must spend N70 million – and must have the amount in cash – are misleading. A similar claim that a presidential candidate must spend N1 billion is incorrect – the limit is N5 billion, but candidates may spend less.

Nigerians are facing a crippling cash shortage caused by the central bank’s introduction of new redesigned naira notes. And lawmakers are turning up the heat on president Muhammadu Buhari.

After a recent meeting with Buhari about the policy, house of representatives majority leader Alhassan Doguwa emerged to tell journalists that the new rules would disadvantage candidates in the upcoming elections. 

Nigerians are set to elect a president and federal lawmakers on 25 February 2023.

In October 2022, the central bank announced a redesign of the currency. The aim was to bring back money from outside the financial system, fight inflation, reduce crime and promote a cashless economy.

But a severe shortage of the new banknotes has caused riots in some parts of the country and landed the federal government in court.

Buhari defended the policy before he met the lawmakers. He said he was aware of the frustration it had caused, but that it had “contributed immensely to the minimisation of the influence of money in politics”.

The president has already faced stinging criticism from within his own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Doguwa is a member of the APC and heads a house committee on the naira swap and cashless policy. He complained to journalists about the obstacles candidates faced in their campaigns. He also made claims about campaign spending. 

What Nigeria reps house majority leader Alhassan Doguwa said

In a 16 February 2023 media briefing, Doguwa had a lot to say about how the new cash policy was affecting electioneering. Here are some of his remarks relevant to this fact-check.

“There is a clear-cut provision in the electoral act, which provides for the amount of money needed for every political office holder to take during campaign to use. 

“A member of the house of representatives is expected to have not more than N70 million [about US$150,000] to conduct his election, logistics and other things. N70 million, cash, by law. Yes. A presidential candidate, for instance, needs to have N1 billion [about $2.2 million].

“The law has provided the amount of money we need to oversee our election process. You need to pay your agents in the villages where you don’t have ATM machines, in the villages where you don’t have [point of sales systems], in the villages where you absolutely don’t have these new naira notes. 

“This is money that I require. The law has permitted me to have N70 million as logistics for my election funding. I need to have this N70 million in hard copy, yes. That is the position of the law. And as I speak to you, I don’t have it, which means if this policy continues this way, if the central bank fails to make available this money we need to fund our elections, definitely every candidate no matter what party he belongs to will be put at disadvantage."

Doguwa has represented the Tudun Wada/Doguwa federal constituency in the northern state of Kano since 2003, and is seeking a sixth term. But did the veteran lawmaker interpret Nigeria’s electoral law correctly? 

We examined four of his claims.

Claim

“A member of the house of representatives is expected to have not more than N70 million to conduct his election, logistics and other things, by law.”

Verdict

Incorrect

Doguwa claimed that Nigeria’s electoral law limits the election expenses of political office holders

He said a member of the house of representatives, for example, is not expected to have more than N70 million (US$150,000) for election expenses, including campaign logistics and polling unit agents’ pay.

Does the law really say this?  

The law Doguwa referred to is section 88 of the Electoral Act 2022, which sets limits on election expenses.

It states that the maximum a candidate seeking a seat in the house of representatives can spend on election expenses is N70 million. For the senate, the maximum is N100 million (about $220,000). 

Nigeria’s two-chambered national assembly is made up of the house and the senate.

The N70 million limit Doguwa referred to applies to all candidates campaigning for a seat in the house of representatives – not only those who already hold office and are seeking re-election. 

Therefore we rate this claim incorrect.

Claim

“The law has provided the amount of money we need to oversee our election process.”

Verdict

Misleading

Doguwa said the central bank’s new policy was preventing him from being able to spend the amount a house of representatives candidate was allowed for election expenses. 

“The law has provided the amount of money we need to oversee our election process,” he said. “If the central bank fails to make available this money we need to fund our elections, definitely every candidate no matter what party he belongs to will be put at disadvantage.” 

We found that neither section 88 nor any other part of the electoral law sets out the amount of money candidates must spend on campaigns or other expenses associated with getting elected.    

The purpose of this section of the Electoral Act is to limit the costs a candidate can incur in the process of getting elected. It doesn’t dictate how much a candidate needs. That’s what Bashir Ibrahim, a professor of law at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, northwest Nigeria, told Africa Check.

“It is false and misleading to claim that the law says you should have that amount. The law envisages that anyone running for office will incur costs in the process. To check the influence of money on elections, the law puts a cap, a limit on how much a candidate can spend on elections,” Ibrahim said.

It's not about what you spend

“Winning elections is not about how much you spend. A candidate can spend far less than half of the expense limit and still win.” Ibrahim said candidates’ main election expenses were advertising, media publicity, organising campaign rallies and meetings, and paying polling agents on election day.

“The law implies that a house of representatives candidate does not need to spend up to N70 million to accomplish all that,” Ibrahim said.

Kamilu Fage, a political science professor at the Bayero University in Kano, northwest Nigeria, agreed. He said it was “wrong and misleading” for a house of representatives candidate to claim they must spend N70 million.

“The limit set by the Electoral Act covers all expenses incurred during the campaign and on election day. This may include the amount they spent buying their party nomination form,” Fage told Africa Check.

According to him, N70 million was perhaps “too much for someone seeking to win a seat in the house of representatives. When you compare it with the official remuneration of a member of the house, you will see that allowing a candidate to spend that much encourages corruption."

Claim

“The law allows me to have the N70 million in cash.”

Verdict

Incorrect

No part of the Electoral Act states that election candidates must have N70 million in ready cash.

“To say a house of representatives candidate needs the N70 million expense limit in cash is absolutely wrong,” Fage said.

“Either the person is ignorant of the law, which is no excuse, or he is deliberately and intentionally distorting the law and misleading the public. Those who aspire to be leaders should be the first to obey the law.”

He added: “The reason politicians are revolting against the naira redesign and withdrawal limit is that they need amounts in cash to woo voters and influence electoral officials and security agents. These are not allowed by law.”  

Ahmadu Bello University’s Ibrahim said Nigerian politicians were also being made uncomfortable by the introduction of the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS). 

The system verifies the biometrics of voters, such as fingerprints and facial features. 

“They are now relying on vote-buying and inducing electoral officials and security agents. They need a lot of cash to do this. That is why a candidate will say he is at a disadvantage because he does not have millions of naira in cash,” Ibrahim said.

Fage said legally allowing candidates to handle large sums in cash risked the violation of the law against money laundering.

Nigeria’s money laundering law says: “No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding— N5,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or  N10,000,000 or its equivalent, in the case of a body corporate.”

Claim

“A presidential candidate needs to have N1 billion.”

Verdict

Incorrect

To buttress his point, Doguwa added that a presidential candidate must, by law, have N1 billion (about $2.2 million) for campaign and election expenses. 

This claim also falls short. The Electoral Act does not say that a presidential candidate needs any amount of money for an election. It only sets a maximum limit of N5 billion (about $10.9 million, and not N1 billion) for election expenses.

It provides for a fine or imprisonment if a candidate knowingly contravenes this provision. (Read our explainer on how political campaign funding works.)

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