By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has recently stared the hornet’s nest when it jacked up the purchasing price of its Presidential nomination form to the extremely exorbitant fee of N100 million.
Hitherto, President Muhammadu Buhari bought his in 2015 and 2019 at the cost of N27 million which was also condemned by a cross section of Nigerians who wondered why someone offering himself or herself for selfless service as President of Nigeria would have to cough out so much cash just to indicate interest.
In other climes, aspirants become candidates when they can generate certain percentages of genuine signatures of accredited voters in their constituency.
Uproarious reactions trailed this unnatural cost of obtaining just a nomination and expression forms by Nigerians aspiring to be chosen by the All Progressives Congress as the official flagbearer to contest for the office of President in next year’s elections. Sadly, the electoral umpire said it is not within its jurisdiction to stem the tides of high costs of Presidential nomination form and expression of interest forms. The question for Professor Yakubu MAHMUD and his INEC is if INEC has no power to regulate campaign funds and whether campaign funds is not also an extension of the costs of nomination given that a politician can’t begin campaign in reality if there is no nomination.
But one possibility that these sets of Nigerians Condemning the high costs of nomination and expression of interest forms haven’t yet explored is the need to re-examine if the ruling party did not design this high cost of Presidential forms just to be able to build up a huge cash war chests that would be deployed to organise the campaigns and possibly buy up votes to enable the All Progressives Congress to retain power beyond May 29th 2023 after the incumbent would have served out his legally permitted two terms and no more. Also, the APC wouldn’t want to be caught doing the same thing for which PDP officials have been charged for money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which selectively decided to prosecute officials of PDP over their campaign funds but looked the other way regarding APC which gave PDP in 2015 and 2019 a run for their campaign money. Indeed Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was allegedly seen moving in humongous cash via CBN bullion vans into his Bourdillion Mansion in Ikoyi which he allegedly used to buy votes for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Yours faithfully was actually told by one of the top officials of the All Progressives Congress that the high fees was just a strategy to raise campaign money through subterfuge and the subterranean methods of siphoning public funds and funnelling those cash through the so called aspirants who would be tapped by the party to indicate interest to run so they can be paid the N100 million from stolen public fund to be funnelled to the coffers of the All Progressives Congress. It means that the ruling party is actually involved in money laundering.
What Is Money Laundering if we may ask? Experts say Money laundering is the process of illegally making a large amount of money and hiding it to make it look like it was generated from legitimate sources. The money normally comes from activities like drug and sex trafficking, terrorist activities, and other illicit means. It is considered dirty and is laundered to make it look like it came from a legal source(s). Money laundering is a serious crime that carries heavy penalties, including jail time.
There are three steps used to disguise the source of illegally earned money and make it usable:
Placement: The money is introduced into the financial system, usually by breaking it into many different deposits and investments.
Layering: The money is shuffled around to create distance between it and the perpetrators.
Integration: The money is then brought back to the perpetrators as legitimate income or clean money.
Now that we’ve helped you understand the basics of money laundering, we’re going to go through how to recognize whether money is legitimately made or if it was generated from illegal sources. We’ve highlighted laundering methods and how the digital age plays into these schemes.
The KEY TAKEAWAYS on this sophisticated crime of money laundering says experts are that: Money laundering involves hiding large amounts of money made illegally to make it look like it was generated legitimately.
Money laundering is a serious crime that carries heavy penalties, including jail time.
Fraudsters often use smurfs, mules, and shells to play, layer, and integrate their money into the financial system.
The digital age helps money launderers stay under the radar and one step ahead of financial authorities.
Financial institutions, corporations, their employees, and other individuals can help fight money laundering by adhering to anti-money laundering policies and other policies, such as strict identification protocols.
On what they identified as Smurfs, Mules, and Shells, the experts say that Money launderers typically use methods to avoid detection and hide the real sources from where their money actually comes.
So the above crime is what sources are accusing the APC of doing. PDP is obviously not far from the same allegations even though their own fees are only within the range of N40 million and downwards.
Ironically, the fellow who made the allegations suggested that what the APC Secretariat is doing by selling this N100 million forms to dozens of loyalists and disciples of President Muhammadu Buhari who are beneficiaries of illegal disbursement from the public till is to hand down humongous amount of cash to the ruling party so as to escape the accusation that APC slammed on the then defeated ruling party of Peoples Democratic Party soon after the 2015 polls in which the former National Security Adviser to the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was charged for money laundry in which case he spent 4 years inside different detention centres of the Department of State Services and the Kuje prison. In the last 7 years, lots of public funds have disappeared from the NNPC, the Customs and several other channels.
My friend said the cash was siphoned from the Abacha loots which were retrieved by the current administration.
Remember also that for over 5 years, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had consistently labelled the preceding administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as that which stole public money meant for the defence sector to be funnelled into the ill fated 2015 polls.
We will see in greater details what President Muhammadu Buhari said of PDP even as close as 2018.
On 25th February 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari said that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) squandered about $500 billion oil earnings in the 16 years it was in power.
The PDP led Nigeria from 1999 to 2015 when it lost the presidential election to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Speaking at the opening of the APC National Caucus meeting which held in 2018 at the new banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Mr. Buhari said he took over at a time Nigeria was fast heading for a state of collapse.
“It is easy to forget the fuel subsidy fraud, arms fund diversion, depleted excess crude account savings, depleted foreign reserves, massive unpaid debts to contractors and suppliers amidst failure to invest or even maintain our infrastructure namely railways, roads, electricity, in spite of having earned over $500 billion from oil & gas alone, during the 16 years of PDP rule,” he said.
He called on party leaders present to not forget the dire situation in which they came to office.
The president said his administration has done well since taking over in 2015. He called on APC leaders “not to be shy in projecting our tremendous achievements from 2015 to date.”
He said the territorial integrity of Nigeria under the APC is no longer under threat.
Mr. Buhari admitted that a number of security challenges still exist; but, he said, they exist in even the most well policed and well secured countries.
“I am confident that the measures we are taking will tackle the acts of rural banditry, herdsmen/farmers conflicts, communal clashes, kidnappings and other crimes,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari pointedly alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan whom he succeeded stole cash of $2 billion USD from the defence budget to prosecute the 2015 polls and many former ministers and officials of that government that played one role or the other in that unsuccessful election in 2014 have been arrested and are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission following charges filed by the government. So my source said that witnessed than a year before Muhammadu Buhari hands over, the APC decided to play smart by diverting public funds through individuals who are directed to purchase the N100 million Presidential nomination form. It is only I Nigeria that Presidential nomination form is commercialised in such a way that the office of President has become for the highest bidder. This strategy is explored because the All Progressives Congress which prosecuted viciously her predecessor for election related corruption of diverting public fund does not want to be similarly accused after the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has ended her tenure. That information from a very highly placed sources within All Progressives Congress is progressively looking like the fact. Already the ruling party has had a cash bazaar of accumulating humongous amounts from the good, the bad and the ugly within their political family.
One of the newspapers in Nigeria analysed the scenario thus: :A conservative estimate by THISDAY has shown that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may rake in over N30 billion from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms, giving the ruling party enormous firepower to face the 2023 general election.
“With a huge war chest expected from sale of forms, the ruling party will have a commanding advantage in the field if the resources are properly deployed,” a political analyst, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY last night.
The presidential nomination form in APC goes for N100 million; the governorship form is sold for N50 million; Senate, N20 million; House of Representatives, N10 million; and House of Assembly, N2 million.
A rundown on the expected revenue from the electoral process shows APC may generate over N2.3 billion from the sale of presidential forms; N2.8 billion from the sale of governorship forms; and roughly N6.54 billion from the sale of senatorial forms. The party could make about N10.8 billion from the sale of forms to a minimum of three House of Representatives aspirants from each of the country’s 360 federal constituencies. And it could generate about N7.93 billion from the sale of forms to a minimum of four aspirants vying for each of the 991 House of Assembly seats across the country.
THISDAY arrived at these estimates looking at the number of likely contestants in the various categories of elective offices.
So far, 23 presidential aspirants have indicated interest in the presidency under the ruling party and APC is expected to generate N2.3 billion from the sale of presidential forms. As more contenders join the race or drop out of the race, the figures would either go up or come down.
With governorship elections holding in 28 states next year, THISDAY estimated that there would be at least two aspirants from each of the states, and at N50 million per aspirant, the party stood to rake in N2.8 billion.
For the Senate, there are 109 senatorial seats in the country, and with at least three aspirants from each senatorial district, and forms going for N20 million, the party may rake in N6.54 billion. The 360 House of Representatives seats, with an estimated three aspirants per federal constituency, and the form going for N10 million, give the party about N10.8 billion.
In addition, with an estimated four people picking nomination forms to contest in the primary election for each of the 991 House of Assembly seats, at N2 million per form, APC is likely to rake in N7.93 billion.
Those that have either indicated interest in contesting the APC presidential primaries or picked their forms include the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Muhammed Abubakar of Jigawa State, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, and former Senate President Ken Nnamani.
Others are former National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiohmole; former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr, Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan; Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Gbenga Olawepo; Ihechukwu Dallas; Chima Usman; Tein Jack Rich; and Pastor Tunde Bakare.
The newspaper says that Political analysts believe with the ruling party raking in over N30 billion, it would be going into the election from a position of strength against the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is working hard to take power from APC.
National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, recently justified the high cost of the party’s nominations forms, saying the party has no regrets whatsoever fixing the presidential form for N100 million. Adamu explained that APC came up with the idea to discourage spoilers and unserious contenders from the race.
He said the party did its homework before arriving at the amount, adding that the cost has to be high because of the need to raise sufficient funds to conduct primaries and successfully prosecute the coming elections.
Adamu said the party was aware that some of the aspirants were not serious contenders but mere jesters out to cause problems.
A source told THISDAY that about 50 per cent of the presidential aspirants might have paid the mandatory fees and collected the forms, while others were believed to be looking for money to beat the deadlines.
The party had in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, extended the time for the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 general election to May 10 due to what an insider attributed to the “long holiday.”
In a revised timetable released by the party’s National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu, APC said the last day for the submission of completed forms and accompanying documents would now be May 11.
The Jigawa State governor was said to have told APC stakeholders in Dutse on Tuesday, “I will join the presidential race since everyone knows I’m a highly qualified person to do the job.” He reportedly said he was pressurised to contest for the presidential office by his colleagues.
There are also indications that the Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, may declare his interest in the presidency and pick his form.
Going by the information available from much of the places whereby elections have held in the past, the political parties that are at the forefront of hot contest to win the polls- APC and PDP are known for offering bribes to both the Electoral umpire and the security forces just as the voters are also offered peanuts for their ballots.
However, the EFCC may not muster enough courage to probe the APC which appointed its officials into offices only just recently.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.