Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has condemned the cost of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nomination forms.
The APC and PDP had fixed the cost of their presidential nomination forms at N100 million and N40 million respectively.
The cost of the forms, particularly that of the APC, has attracted widespread criticism.
Falana in a statement on Sunday described the actions of both political parties as a mockery of the Not Too Young To Run Bill signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.
“By asking the young people to pay N60 million (being 40 percent discount off the said N100 million), the APC has made a mockery of the Not Too Young to Run Act enacted by the Federal Government under its control. It is undoubtedly clear that the N100 million deposit fixed by APC for its presidential aspirants has excluded the majority of the alleged 40 million members of the party from participating in the party primary elections,” the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said.
“The APC ought to have realised that by restricting politics to the affairs of fat cats it has violated Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act which states that ‘every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.’
“The apparent endorsement of the controversial nomination fees by President Muhammadu Buhari smacks of hypocrisy because, in 2014, he had told Nigerians that he had to borrow N27.5 million to buy his nomination form. In condemning the skyrocketing nomination fees at the material time, I did say that ‘Under section 131 of the Constitution any Nigerian citizen who has attained the age of 40 years and is a member of a political party and sponsored by that party and has been educated up to secondary school level is qualified to contest for presidential election in Nigeria. Section 87 of the Electoral Act which provides for the nomination of candidates by political parties has not prescribed that aspirants shall pay any fee. In the circumstance, political parties may only be permitted by law to charge administrative fees.’
“However, in a careless attempt to play on the collective intelligence of Nigerians, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the APC of ‘inflicting maximum pains on its members’ and that the fees cast the ruling party ‘in the image of rogues and hypocrites’. However, the PDP had earlier pegged its fees for both the expression of interest and nomination forms at N40 million for the President, N21 million for Governorship aspirants. Those aspiring for Senate, are to pay N3.5 million, N2.5 million for those aspiring for the House of Representatives, while state House of Assembly aspirants will pay N600,000
The party’s NEC also approved a 50 per cent reduction in nomination fees for youths aged 25 to 30 years for various elective positions. In justifying its own high nomination fees the opposition party said that ‘We are a mass movement for the Nigerian people. This is why our nomination fees are soft and democratic’.
“Since the national minimum wage is N30,000 per month the deposit of N100 million or N60 million has excluded millions of workers from contesting the presidential election in Nigeria. Even retired professors, judges and permanent secretaries are not in a position to pay the deposit demanded by the APC and PDP from their meagre pension. Ironically, Nigeria houses the second largest population of poor people in the world but the nomination fees collected from aspirants by APC and PDP are the highest in the world.
“Tunji Ariyomo, the National Coordinator of Nigeria Focus Group has said that, ‘To run for a governorship position in any state in the US in 2022, your political party’s primary filing and nomination fee can range from as low as $0 (yes, zero) to $3,750 (or N1.8m). The average fee is thus circa $2,000 (or N980,000). These charges cover what is labelled in Nigeria as nomination and expression of interest forms’ fees.’
“Finally, Nigerian courts have repeatedly maintained that the National and Independent Electoral Commission and State Independent Electoral Commissions lack the legal capacity to add to, alter, enlarge, curtail, or repeat the conditions contained in sections 106 and 107 of the Constitution which have covered the field with respect to the qualifications and disqualifications of candidates contesting elections in Nigeria.
“Therefore, as political parties are incapable to prescribe conditions for the eligibility of candidates outside the provisions of the Constitution the nomination fees of N100 million or N40 million pegged by the APC and PDP respectively are illegal and unconstitutional as they constitute a flagrant violation of sections 40, 106 and 107 of the Constitution as well as article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Act. The illegal, insensitive and immoral nomination fees should be cancelled without any further delay.”