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Bribe-for-votes: Delegates say EFCC, ICPC can’t prosecute them

Party delegates are taking advantage of their parties’ primaries to make money from aspirants, with some of them describing themselves and the electioneering season as…

Party delegates are taking advantage of their parties’ primaries to make money from aspirants, with some of them describing themselves and the electioneering season as beautiful brides and opportunistic respectively. But there are concerns raised from all spheres of the Nigerian society over what is seen as another form of corruption, with calls that the delegates be prosecuted.

Speaking on Thursday in Abuja at a book launch, former President Goodluck Jonathan described the ongoing primaries as a mess.

Jonathan said, “These whole primaries going on across the country is a mess. This is not a standard practice. The process has failed.

“We cannot use the process to elect president, governors, senators and House of Representatives members and others.

“The process has already failed, which is not good for the country. But we will manage and move on.”

Also, the election umpire itself, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), expressed fears over the manner politicians have monetised the country’s electoral process, describing it as a dangerous trend.

The chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and his predecessor, Prof Attahiru Jega, faulted the practice during a one-day colloquium with the theme, “Emerging Issues That Will Shape the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria,” organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development and Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

The civil society on its part sees it as outright corruption. Speaking on the matter, the executive director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said what is going on is political corruption, which removes every iota of credibility from the process.

He said those involved in inducing delegates had replaced ideas with money and they appear to be getting away with it.

“There are aspirants who lost after bribing delegates, and they are boldly coming out to request for refunds. If the electoral act makes vote buying punishable, we wonder why the anti-corruption agencies are watching aspirants and delegates blatantly buying and selling votes.

“A politician who bought his way to the ticket will likely seek to recover what he spent, and it is the public treasury that will bear the brunt in the end. 

“Nigerians will do well to reject parties that have turned the primary process to a bazaar. Such parties can never mean well for the Nigerian people,” Zikirullahi said.

A resident of Jos, Plateau State, Hamisu Dogua, has raised alarm that the bribing of delegates is an act of corruption capable of derailing Nigeria’s democracy.

“There is no doubt that many of the parties and the politicians have lost their morality and ethics and are ready to mortgage our country, future and our lives for token sums. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, the democracy we are so proud to have will turn into turmoil and bloodbath,” he said.

He, therefore, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intervene and arrest the situation.

Delegates admit receiving inducements from aspirants

Delegates who participated in the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate primary elections of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna have narrated how aspirants paid them huge sums of money to sway their votes.

Our correspondent gathered that delegates for the All Progressives Congress (APC) too have benefitted from funds paid by presidential aspirants who visited the state.

Things took a dramatic turn in Kaduna when an aspirant who lost primary election forcefully recovered his money.

Adam Namadi, son of a former vice president, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, asked 30 delegates to refund N76million after he failed to secure the PDP ticket for Kaduna North federal constituency.

Another aspirant, however, stepped down when delegates demanded bribe.

In Borno State, during the primaries of the PDP, delegates received undisclosed sums of money from aspirants, but in the ruling APC where key positions are contested unopposed, the delegates complained that they made peanuts.

An APC delegate decried that majority of the positions were contested unopposed.

“We are not happy that the bigger positions like governorship and senatorial where huge amount of money would be distributed are unopposed. But we got small amounts for affirmation voting,” he said.

Some delegates who spoke to our correspondent in Imo described the primaries as the best period in the electioneering process.

No fewer than 10 presidential aspirants had visited Imo in the last one month. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had visited the state three times,  the last being on Tuesday when he met delegates at the Rockview Hotel.

Our correspondent gathered that each delegate got as much as N400,000 from one aspirant.

It was also gathered that a presidential aspirant who visited his party secretariat and met with delegates gave them $50,000.

A PDP delegate from Owerri municipal said, “We are now the beautiful bride and we intend to make use of this period because after this we will not see them again. So, for us, primary election is our cash cow.”

Our correspondent learnt that in Edo, delegates were rewarded handsomely for their support to the candidates.

A delegate who refused to mention the amount simply said, “We received good money from candidates.”

Our correspondent in Kogi State reported that two aspirants for the central senatorial district allegedly competed to offer delegates inducements.

It was alleged that Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan promised each delegate N300,000, plus  motorbikes, while Mahmud Ademu Attah proposed N1.5million. Both were said to have  increased the stake when the battle peaked.

But delegates declined to speak. One said, “Not sure, don’t be taken away by social media lies.” Another said, “Is that so? I am hearing this for the first time.”

In Taraba, delegates in the just concluded PDP primaries were allegedly bribed with N100,000 and N250,000 by those vying for tickets to State Assembly and National Assembly respectively, while the highest bidder for governorship ticket was alleged to have paid the delegates N350,000.

Party delegates in Akwa Ibom State, especially members of the PDP and the APC, also hit a goldmine with the ongoing primaries.

Our correspondent, however, gathered that some of the delegates were made to swear to an oath of allegiance to be true to their voting promise after collecting money.

Delegates adamant, say EFCC, ICPC lack evidence to prosecute them

In Kano, an anonymous delegate insisted that there was nothing wrong in collecting money from aspirants, describing the money as “chicken change” that will not last.

“It is just our time to smile after a very long period. Whoever is asking for our prosecution is certainly not privileged to be in our shoes because I doubt if there’s one person in Nigeria that will not collect,” he said.

He added that contrary to what people believe, many delegates don’t receive the huge amount of money being called out in the media because of middlemen, except in situations where they are lucky enough to receive the money directly from the aspirant.

Also in Kano, an APC delegate who spoke anonymously, described the largesse as their ‘share,’ which had been budgeted for by all the aspirants.

They both said the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) had no proof that they were bribed.

Another delegate of the APC in another state said it was to evade prosecution that campaign funds were not paid into bank accounts, which he said could be traceable. 

“Who can prove that they gave us money?” he asked, adding that the EFCC or ICPC would have a hard time proving that delegates collected money from aspirants.

A PDP delegate in Borno State said the process of sharing money might not be easy to be tracked by anti-graft agencies.

“I don’t have any fear of being tracked down because I did not receive any document or evidence of payment from the aspirants. I am not afraid of anything because delegates’ election is just like business, the highest bidder gets the result. And I will vote for the one who gives me the highest amount, or the aspirant of my political mentor,” he said.

Delegates selling their conscience – Adamu

The National Chairman of the ruling APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, has accused some delegates of selling their conscience.

Adamu, who said this in an interview with VOA Hausa service, however, said there was no evidence to substantiate allegations that the party’s presidential aspirants had been sharing money to delegates ahead of the primary.

He added that there was no law in the country stopping presidential aspirants from taking their electioneering campaigns to delegates across the country.

“For now, there is no law against aspirants taking campaigns to delegates. I don’t have evidence that aspirants are sharing money to delegates. For me, it is the delegates that are selling their conscience, which is not proper.

“Our delegates should know that anybody sharing money to them can’t be the right candidate of the party. He doesn’t mean well for the country. But I don’t have solution for the problem,” Adamu said.

By Terkula Igidi, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Lami Sadiq (Kaduna), Magaji lsa Hunkuyi (Jalingo),  Usman A. Bello (Benin), Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri), Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano),  Tijani Labaran (Lokoja) &  Iniabasi Umo, Uyo.

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