Presidential election expenses must not exceed N5bn —Senate

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…As FG disburses N15.2bn loans to 300,000 beneficiaries***

Ahead of the 2019 presidential and general elections, the Senate has said election expenses for presidential election should not exceed N5 billion, following  amendment of section 91 of 2010 Electoral Act and Amendment.

The Senate also said  no gubernatorial candidate should during the election spend above N1 billion; senatorial candidate, N100 million; House of Representatives, N70 million; State House of Assembly, N30 million; LG chairman, N30 million and councillorship, not above N5 million, in line with amendment of sections 91(1to 7) According to the amendment, no individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more that N10,000,000.000. Section 91(10) stipulates that “ a candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or Imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.’’

These followed the presentation of lead debate on A Bill for an Act to Amend the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Act 2010 and for other matters connected therewith, 2018 (SB. 699) as presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North).

The bill was, however, read the second time and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, referred it to the Committee on INEC to report back next Tuesday. In his presentation, Nazif, who recalled that the bill was passed by the National Assembly before it proceeded on its annual recess on July 24 and transmitted for assent but was declined by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the President had given reasons for declining assent, adding that the observations had been noted.

According to him, Buhari has made observations of “cross referencing error, fears of increased cost of conducting elections”, among others. Contributing, some lawmakers raised objections to some of the provisions in the proposed amendment bill, saying they were unimplementable. The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who raised concern on some sections of the bill, said:   “I am worried about item seven which is Section 140 (5).  It reads, ‘if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by the commission, a candidate or his agent discovers that his name, name or logo of his party is omitted, a candidate or his agent shall notify the commission. ‘’The commission shall: a. Cancel the election to rectify the omission, b. Appoint another date for the election. “I think this is very dangerous, because what happens is that somebody who believes he will lose the election will raise an objection without even consulting the other candidates, and write to INEC. “INEC now believes him and then postpones the election, which now becomes an isolated election where you cannot determine what will happen. I think this would be unfair to the rest candidates.

“So, I suggest that sample ballot papers should be displayed before the election to give candidates and their parties room to make their inputs before election day, rather than wait till election day for objections to be raise.” On his part, Senator James Manager, PDP, Delta South,  said there was need to do a thorough job on the bill to enable the President assent to it this time, adding that it was the fourth time the bill was being worked on by the legislature.

In the meantime, the federal government has disbursed N15.183 billion interest-free loans to over 300,000 beneficiaries across the country under the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme (GEEP).

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed this at the 9th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum held at the State House banquet hall in Abuja. He said: “For the small businesses also, we expanded the microcredit to small businesses under our Government Empowerment & Enterprise Programme (GEEP). N15.183 billion in interest-free loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 have been disbursed to over 300,000 market women, traders, artisans, farmers across all 36 States of the country and the FCT. By the way, 56 percent of our disbursements have gone to women.”

The vice president further stated that the Trader Moni Scheme was recently launched in order to extend the opportunity to people at the bottom of the trading pyramid which, according to him, constitute the largest segment of the economy. He also noted that the programme will engender financial inclusion. “Under the Trader Moni Scheme, we decided that we are giving microcredit to 2 million petty traders across the country.  We start by giving them N10,000 and when they pay back within six months, we give them N15,000 and then N20,000 until they graduate into the GEEP programme.

“By giving them credit to replenish and increase their inventories, we give them a stronger chance, to earn more, while they also service the value chain that they are a part of. But more importantly, we bring them into the formal sector, where they have access to government and private credit and we lift many permanently out of poverty. “An important feature of the program is financial inclusion.

So far, we have 349,000 new bank accounts/wallets for beneficiaries and intending beneficiaries. In the second phase, when they get the second line of credit, we insist that they must open bank accounts. We are working now with about 8 banks that are very committed to the Trader Moni Scheme.

“We have banks that are providing phones, at the moment; we have taken custody of over 300,000 mobile phones. For those traders who do not have phones, they will be given mobile phones provided by the banks free of charge. The banks are also looking forward to the opportunity of opening new bank accounts for the traders,” Osinbajo stated.

Vanguard