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Why Peter Obi can be Jailed but cannot be disqualified



As Peter Obi and his Obidient movement buckled up ahead of the 90 days campaign, which will start on September 28, there has been controversy about disqualifying the presidential hopefuls.

The call for Peter Obi’s disqualification actually emanated from the decision of the national chairman of the Labour Party, Barrister Julius Abure, who inaugurated an 11-man diaspora committee to generate about $150 million and N100 billion crowdfunding for Obi’s presidential campaign.

Why groups are calling for Peter Obi’s disqualification

This singular step has influenced the calls for Obi’s disqualification because section 88(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, stipulated that:

“The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall not exceed N5,000,000,000.”

Section 88(8) of the act further added:

“No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N50,000,000.”

Although “other entity” is not specified, it could also mean a group or an organisation. The section also specified that it must be in Naira and not in foreign currencies, as the Labour Party had mentioned.

Has any presidential candidate done what Peter Obi is doing, resulting in calls for disqualification?

Recall that the amount an individual can donate to a presidential candidate had earlier raised debate when the director general of Tinubu support group (TSG), Aminu Suleiman, said he had signed an N100 million cheque to purchase the All Progressives Congress (APC) nomination and expression of interest form for Bola Tinubu.

Bola Tinubu is the presidential candidate of the APC, but when the gesture was made, he was contesting for the party’s primary.

The gesture was rejected by the now ruling party flagbearer on the ground that an individual cannot donate more than N50 million to a presidential candidate.

Thus, some persons have seen the move by the Labour Party and Peter Obi as a violation of the electoral act.

Why Peter Obi can be jailed?

However, violators of this section of the electoral act cannot be disqualified but can only be fined or jailed.

This is because section 88 sub-sections 9, 10, and 11 mentions the penalties for candidates violating the campaign finances provision.

“Sub. (9) A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of 1% of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or imprisonment for a term, not more than 12 months or both. Sub. (10) says, “Any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both,” while subsection (11) says, “An accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the contravention of the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N3,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years or both”.

Clearly, the decision of the Labour Party to raise N100 billion for Peter Obi’s presidential campaign is a violation of the electoral act, but disqualification is not the actual penalty.

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