Thisday Newspapers has made a subtle allegation of breach of section 91(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (As Amended) against NCAN and its leadership.
According to the Newspaper, expression of interest and nomination of forms purchased is a clear infraction of section 91(9) of the Act which provides “No individual or other entity shall donate more than one million naira (1,000,000.00) to any candidate”. The paper quoting the opinion of some unnamed lawyers that “if the president accepts the forms he would be liable to the punishment stipulated in S91 (10)(a) of the Act.”
However, I disagree with the opinion of the lawyers claim that what NCAN did is an infringement of our Electoral Act, 2010. To appreciate my position we have to look at the provisions of the Electoral Act and judicial decisions to unravel the issue.
Section 91(1) and (2) provides that Election expenses to be incurred by a presidential candidate shall be One Billion Naira Only. The Act has provided the way to determine the One Billion and the One Million Naira donation. By Section 91(8)(a) no account shall be taken of any deposit made by the candidate on his nomination in compliance with the law. In other words, the expenses of a candidate, before the primary election is, excluded.
It is the position of the law beyond pronounced times without number by all the level of court in Nigeria that in interpreting a clear provision of a statute, natural meaning shall be given, to the wording of the law. In Saraki v FRN (2016) LPELR-40013 (SC) the Supreme Court per Muhammad JSC held that “In interpreting provisions of the Constitution and indeed any statute, the settled principle is that where the words used are devoid of ambiguity, same must be given natural meaning.”
In addition to that Kekere-Ekun, Justice of the Supreme Court opines that in such situation contrary meaning should not be inserted. The object of statutory interpretation is to discover the intention of the lawmaker which is to be deduced, from the language used.
In applying the above position of the apex court on the issue at it is clear regulation of financial expenditure in election applies only to a candidate. Who is a candidate in an election contemplated in section 91 of the Act? By the provisions of section 31 and 32 of the Electoral Act, a candidate is a person sponsored by a political party to participate in an election and his name submitted to the INEC. See Mohammed & Anor v. Oriaku (2008) LPELR-4499 (CA) per Adekeye JCA (As he then was).
Based on the above decision can we refer President Muhammadu Buhari as APC candidate in the 2019 election? The answer is NO! President Buhari is not even an aspirant. “An Aspirant is a person with a strong desire to achieve a position of importance or to win a competition. Indeed Section 87(1) of the Electoral Act States that: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold its primaries for aspirants to all elective posts.”
From the above it is clear that an aspirant is a person who contested the primaries. An aspirant is thus a candidate in the primaries.” Per Rhodes-Vivour JSC in PDP & Anor v Sylva.
It is my candid opinion, based on the above provisions of the Electoral Act and judicial decisions section 91 of the Electoral Act does not apply to the circumstance hand. Members of the NCAN or any individual are entitled in law to purchase the form in the sum of N 45M. In fact, before a primary election, an individual can donate more than N1 Billion Naira to an aspirant. President Muhammad Buhari, has the discretion, to accept the forms, and if he did that, no law, is breached. What the law prohibits, is no individual or entity should donate more than One Million Naira to an aspirant that emerged, as a candidate.
Sunusi Musa, NCAN’s action is within the law. The insinuation by the Thisday Newspaper is a bogus law which is a twin brother of fake news.