The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democra-tic Party (PDP) may be facing an uphill task raising sufficient funds for their campaigns ahead of next year’s elections, an investigation by The Nation has revealed.
Large scale individual and corporate donors have not been forthcoming with cash to assist the parties as it used to be in the past, it was gathered.
They are said to be scared of getting trapped by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other security agencies some of which are already mounting a strict surveillance on transactions in the financial sector as the elections draws nearer.
The anti-graft agency is understood to have put a special team of detectives on standby to monitor banking transactions round the clock.
Other detectives of the EFCC have been deployed at airports and seaports to prevent importation of slush funds into the country while the agency has warned Bureau De Change operators against serving as couriers for slush cash for election purpose.
On its part, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is focusing on e-transactions than cash flow which is preferred by many politicians.
The move is to make it difficult for politicians to buy votes before, during and after elections.
Unlike what happened in the build-up to the 2015 general elections when banks were hauling cash in bullion vans and chartered planes across the country for politicians, some banks are said to be currently undergoing a cash squeeze.
It is now difficult for a bank to pay between N50million and N100million in a single transaction to any customer, individual or corporate.
The banks will rather transfer such huge amounts electronically which can be monitored by appropriate agencies like the EFCC.
Investigation also revealed that the EFCC action is a fall out of the collaboration between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and EFCC to check money influence on the elections.
It was learnt that the scope of collaboration covers measures to stop vote buying.
Apart from monitoring movement of stolen funds kept in some private vaults, the EFCC is focusing on transactions by banks.
A well placed source said: “The campaign for 2019 general elections will be run on tight budgets because of a deliberate policy to limit cash influence and make the process credible.
“The campaign expenses of all parties and contestants are being monitored to make sure that they are in line with statutory limits.
“EFCC detectives have also been deployed in airports, border posts and seaports to checkmate the inflow of illicit funds into the country. Those who want to repatriate looted funds will go through hell this time around.
“There is pressure on the banks to make their transaction records as comprehensive and transparent as possible. There is a special team of EFCC detectives working with some sister agencies conducting 24-hour surveillance on bank transactions.
“Some of these detectives have just acquired new skills on how to track transactions even to suspected corrupt sponsors of parties and candidates.
“Any cash in transit movement by banks through companies or by bullion vans will be scrutinized henceforth to ensure that the process is legitimate to serve innocent customers and not Politically Exposed Persons. All these steps apply to all parties and office holders.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Our target is also against vote buying. With the measures put in place so far, cash will not be available to parties for sharing at polling units. This is our ultimate goal.
“Politicians can resort to e-transactions to buy votes but we can intercept this process easily.”
On Bureau De Change operators, the source added: “The EFCC has met with them and warned against being used as couriers for illicit funds by politicians.
“At our session with these operators, they admitted that 70 per cent of them are unregistered. They alleged that most of these illegal BDCs were used during the 2015 poll. For instance, out of about 1,000 BDC operators in Abuja alone, less than 30 per cent are legally licensed.
“We are going to discuss with the CBN on how to deal with these illegal BDCs in accordance with the laws of the land.”
A top bank official said: “We are really having less cash in banks now because the CBN is encouraging e-transactions. And with electronic banking, transactions by parties, politicians, agents and sponsors can be monitored.
“When we find out, it appears the cash squeeze might be between December and till after the general elections in 2019.”
When contacted, the Acting Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade said: “We have started monitoring campaign funds and putting measures in place to check vote buying.
“We have our men, who have undergone special training, in charge of surveillance of banks for suspicious transactions. So, movement of funds is strictly being monitored.
“We have met with officials of Bureau De Change. Their lamentation is that most of the operators are illegal. We demanded that they should compile the list of registered members. Illegal operators can be shut down by the appropriate government agencies.”
An APC chieftain told The Nation that it is no longer business as usual for the parties mobilizing funds ahead of elections.
He said:”Campaigning for and winning a presidential election in our clime requires a lot of money. Take a large rally for example, it requires a huge amount of money to stage and we will have to stage a number of this as we continue with the campaign we just flagged off.
“Although we are the ruling party, it has not been easy mobilizing funds for the party to spend. But we are forging on largely with the support of individual Nigerians.”
Speaking in a similar vein, a source in the campaign structure of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, said: “most of the things you see some of us doing, we are doing with personal finance and unsolicited supports we get from friends and well-wishers. We are still waiting for the party and the candidate to come forward with needed funds.”
The cash crunch is said to be slowing down the campaign activities of the parties.
Consequently, supporters of the PDP candidate across the country are urging the handlers of his campaign to focus more on small public events and door to door drives across the country until the problem of cash drought can be resolved.
One source said:”We have been advised to plan the big rallies for the later part of the campaigns. Given the reality on ground as we speak, we may be focusing more on the less elaborate electioneering drives that are equally very effective but less expensive. Don’t forget that the PDP has been out of government for nearly four years and we have fewer numbers of governors than we had in 2015.
“The current administration too is intentionally stiffening the noose around our neck by threatening anybody who is willing to support the PDP financially with EFCC and frivolous allegations. This has made it very difficult for our party to receive the usual election time financial support we enjoyed in the past. But I can assure you that all these will not save the APC from defeat.”
It was also gathered that some Atiku support groups may resort to launching a nationwide campaign to invite donors to make financial contributions.
Bala Halilu, convener of the Atikulated Nigeria Movement (ANM), said it is not proper for anybody to expect the candidate to solely fund the election.
“If they say there is cash crunch, then it means PDP chieftains didn’t keep money away as being alleged. We truly need fun to push the campaign,” he said.
“On our own as support groups, we are seeking permission to approach the general public as regards funding. This is important because the party may not be able to raise the needed fund and we want to win this election for Nigerians. So, Nigerians must be allowed to invest into the process by helping to raise the fund we will be needing to stop the APC from continuing in office beyond 2019,” he said.
For APC, the presidential campaign committee is yet to make funds available for any major electioneering effort.
“Most of the activities you see been done across the country to propagate the re-election bid of Mr. President are being done through private initiatives,” a source said.
“It is either the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) doing it or individual state chapters, especially in the southern part of the country, taking the initiative to do the needful. Talks are currently on about how to fund the campaigns better. But I can tell you that it is not true that the presidency or the APC has a huge war-chest in place to prosecute this election.
“This is a season when gift items and branded campaign materials are usually in the surplus. But look around you and you will agree with me that something is unusual in the way the big parties are carrying on with their campaigns this time around.
“Visit the campaign secretariats across the state and you will not see the usual hordes of rams and chickens associated with yuletide in an election year.
“Even party leaders like me are wondering why we didn’t get the usual yuletide hampers and envelopes now that electioneering campaigns are ongoing. But what we hear is that money is yet to be released for the coordinators to use. That is strange as we are barely two months to the election proper. If they are yet to fund the campaigns now, when will that be done? Or is it true that funds are not easily sourced as being alleged? This is unusual,” a chieftain of the PDP in Ogun State said.