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Gbajabiamila advocates review on campaign finances

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Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila has advocated reforming the nation’s campaign financing laws to clean up financial flow into the political system.

Delivering a lecture at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House on Thursday, where he presented a paper on ‘Consolidating Nigeria’s Democracy: Prospects for Strengthening Nigeria’s Electoral Systems Ahead of 2023 Elections,’ the Speaker said as the country’s democracy continues to grow, there was the need to review the campaign laws in the country, especially in the area of finances for elections.

He said “Clearly, we need to reform our campaign finance laws and the entire system through which we fund politics and political operations in the country. This would require amendments to both the constitution and the Electoral Act.

“To be effective, such campaign finance reform legislation will impose a financial reporting mandate on candidates and campaigns and impose severe penalties on violators.”

He said doing that would help clean up the flow of money into the political process, but was quick to add that “there is a real risk that this ends up making the process more expensive by creating regulatory compliance costs.

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“So, as we consider this option, we will consider others too and remain open to new ideas.”

The Speaker also advocated aggressive voter education and enlightenment which he said could help increase the rate of voter participation in the forthcoming 2023 elections.

He said: “Voter education and enlightenment campaigns can help increase the rate of voter participation, getting more people to believe that there is power in the vote and that a ballot can change the course of a nation and improve the conditions of its people.

“Enhancing citizen participation is also about ensuring that the nation’s diversity is reflected in the composition of its political actors. The variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences can only improve the quality of debate and enhance the quality of outcomes.”

Gbajabiamila outlined the steps taken by the National Assembly to ensure substantial improvement to the Nigerian electoral system, saying, “After every election cycle, the National Assembly has initiated steps to document experiences, extrapolate lessons learned and, on that basis, amend the electoral laws to plug gaps and remove bottlenecks.

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“Each electoral amendment effort reflects a considered attempt to provide a more robust statutory framework for elections. From the internal party processes to the final declaration of results and even pre and post-election litigations.

“At the same time, the Independent National Electoral Commission has in the last decade shown a remarkable willingness to learn from its own mistakes, embrace new technology, engage stakeholders, and take proactive action to ensure public faith in the electioneering process.

“They, and indeed the legislature, have often been helped in our joint efforts by aid and support from our international friends who understand that Nigeria’s democracy has been hard-won and deserves to be protected by all prudent and necessary means.”

He said the Nigerian parliament and indeed the government had made serious efforts towards ensuring that the forthcoming elections are free, fair, and credible.

“In the 2022 Appropriations Bill, the legislature has made provisions to allow both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to make adequate plans for these contingencies.

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“And I am aware that in addition to funding issues, efforts are already underway to prepare for the unique challenges we face as we plan to deliver free, fair, and credible elections across the country.”

While insisting that democracy in Nigeria is still young and fragile, Gbajabiamila said sustaining it requires dedicated efforts as the success or failure of the 2023 elections would impact the Nigerian people, the African continent, and indeed, the world.

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