Recently, political parties released the nomination fees for aspirants desiring to run under their platform for offices in the 2019 election, and if you noticed, the outrageous figures would make one have a fiscal throw up. Even the parties whose electoral chances requires ‘innovative struggle’, are not left out in the craze to monetize nomination forms.
Is it legal to collect nomination fees from ‘aspirants’? Is it legal to collect nomination fees from ‘candidates’? What laws guide the operation of political parties in collecting such fees and elections in Nigeria, if any?
It is illegal and unconstitutional to do so in Nigeria, based on the laws that guide elections. You may wonder, then why do we have it? To that, I must admit that we have become a society where lawlessness is lawful. Let me explain the position here. For every election in Nigeria, what guides us include: the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended), the Electoral Act 2010 and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Rules and Regulations, constituting the legal framework which regulates our electoral process. The Party constitution are only a tool, for guiding the party, but must be subject to the provisions of the earlier laws. It is also noteworthy to state that the INEC Rules are also subject to the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act – see the case of Okechukwu v. Onyegbu, where the INEC Rules is stated as a fundamental objective giving effect to the provisions of the Electoral Act. Of all these, the Nigerian constitution is the ‘grundnorm’, the final authority from which others derived their powers.
The Nigerian Constitution stipulates the provision for conducting elections, as well as qualifications and disqualifications for candidates vying for political offices. For this, See sections 106 and 107 for House of Assembly, sections 65 and 66 for National Assembly, sections 177 and 182 for election to the office of Governor of a State; and sections 131 and 137 for election to the office of President. There is no particular mention of nomination fees as a condition for aspirants or even candidates to run for office. In addition, Section 87 of the Electoral Act, with title ‘Nomination of candidates by parties’ does not mention anything about nomination fees as a condition precedent for primary elections for aspirants to become candidates. Please read for yourself and see that it does not in Section 87 or any other section of the Electoral Act. Although, the proposed amended Act mentions a stipulated limit for nomination fees, but it has not yet been assented to by the President, hence it lacks the force of law. The existing law is the Electoral Act 2010.
Therefore, INEC needs to remind political party that nomination fees cannot be a legal condition precedent for Party Primaries or selection of candidates to run for political office, except expressly provided for as such, in line with the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). It is also highly recommended that the vibrant Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) rise to the duty of finding innovative legal channels through redress in court as institutions of democratic accountability, focused on redressing issues that undermine our democracy, in ensuring that democracy works for all and not only a few, in ensuring that INEC does the needful.