EXPLAINER: Is it legal for Obi, others to receive funds from diaspora?

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and Electoral Act 2022 provides for ways through which political parties can be financed. The laws also place restrictions on political parties with regards to where they can get funds.

The express provision of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, according to Section 225 (3) (a) and (b), is that no political party can hold or possess any funds or other assets outside Nigeria. No political party is entitled to retain any funds or assets sent to it from outside Nigeria.

There is controversy on whether it is the candidate or the political party that is prohibited from retaining such funds or assets. According to BusinessDay findings, legal experts are divided on the issue.

Michael Adeyemi, human rights lawyer and principal partner, Promptus Legalis, said; “The Supreme Court has held that all votes belong to a political party and it is the political party that is elected into power, not the individual, and therefore the individuals are representatives of the party.

“If this is so, then whatever a candidate does, he does so on behalf of his political party. Where a person decides to run under any political party, he is the representative of that party and anything he does to campaign for votes, he does so on behalf of the party.”

According to him, this means that where a candidate contravenes the law in furtherance of the objective of a political party which he represents, the political party is also guilty of such contravention.

“A candidate cannot say the fund is for him and not that of the political party when he is a representative of such party and such funds are to be used for campaigns by the party,” Adeyemi said.

Read also: Contributions from Nigerians abroad do not in any way violate laws on party funding – Utomi

According to Adewale Olude, a dispute resolution lawyer and principal counsel at Gemni Solicitors, the provision of the law on political party financing is clear.

He said: “A political party is prohibited from receiving money from outside Nigeria. The law is not against crowdfunding or a group of persons giving support to an individual who is contesting for elections under the platform of a political party. What the law prohibits in Section 225 (3) (b) of the 1999 Constitution is the receipt of funds from persons outside Nigeria by political parties.

“Although there is no express provision prohibiting a political party’s flagbearer, it is also the law that candidates are representatives of their parties and where such persons contravene the law, there are consequences such as that in Section 85 (b).”

Section 85 (b) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that any political party that retains any fund or asset remitted to it from outside Nigeria shall on conviction forfeit the funds or assets to the Independent National Electoral Commission and in addition may be liable to a fine of at least five million naira.

Adedeji Adeyemi, an international law expert, political and human rights lawyer, said: “There is no express provision prohibiting crowdfunding by well-meaning Nigerians. The law does not also prohibit the receipt of such funds by a political candidate.

“Surely, the law did not envisage preventing Nigerians from contributing to the political development of their country. Currently Nigerians in diaspora are restricted from voting. It is good that they are looking for other ways to be part of the political system.”

Considering the divergent legal opinions, there is a need therefore to seek the knowledge of the courts in this regard. There is a need for the interpretation of the provisions of the law for a better understanding of the spirit of the law.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.