A human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has faulted the commercialisation of nomination forms by political parties for aspirants who want to contest elections, describing the action as illegal.

The declaration came with less than one year to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

He regretted that despite expressing disappointment that he took a loan of N27m to buy the All Progressives Congress’ nomination form during the 2015 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari had not been able to change the practice.

According to him, the Transition Monitoring Group and stakeholders in the nation’s electoral process, including the Independent National Electoral Commission, should use the forthcoming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states to stop vote buying on Election Day.

Falana stated this in his keynote address, which he delivered during the one-day national electoral summit organised by TMG with support from the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development in Lagos.

A copy of the address he delivered at the summit with the theme, “Engaging the 2019 electoral process for improved citizens’ participation and public confidence,” was obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday.

At the event, the chairperson of TMG, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the civil society organisations would not rest until the nation’s democracy was safeguarded “from sliding into the doldrums.”

“As a people, we cannot continue to live in denial pretending that all is well with our electoral process. It is important for all to appreciate the fact that there is still a lot of work to do, especially in an era where innovation, advancement and improvement in every human endeavour have become a global phenomenon,” she stated.

Falana also called for the abolition of security votes for state governors, saying it empowered them financially to manipulate the electoral process.

He said, “It is illegal and prohibitive to collect nomination forms. When you do that, you are excluding people from participating in the democratic process. In 2003, INEC attempted to collect money for nomination forms. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi led us to court and the court held that it was illegal and unconstitutional to collect nomination forms, after we had dragged not former than seven to eight state governments to court over money for nomination forms for LG elections.

“The TMG may wish to put these cases together for people to know their rights. By the way, what is a nomination form? A sheet of paper! What is embarrassing for some of us is that President Muhammadu Buhari complained that he was asked to pay N27m in 2015 for his own nomination form and had to take a loan to raise the money.

“Now that Buhari is the President of Nigeria and leader of the ruling party (APC), what has happened? I think TMG will also want to take this up, especially the legality of nomination forms so that you can open the democratic space for people to contest and participate in the electoral process.

He said the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), had not paid their party dues as party members because “parties are not run on the basis of dues from members.”

“When I was running for election in Ekiti State, there were old men and women who went to their rooms and brought out letters personally signed by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, acknowledging receipt of contributions to the party (Action Group) from under pillows.

“It was acknowledged by the party leader and that was how parties were run. And if you were in a public office, up to the Second Republic, you were charged 10 per cent of your legitimate salaries. I’m not talking of running cost and others,” he stated.

While warning that Nigeria could not practise democracy with security votes, Falana expressed reservation that with the facts on the ground, over-commercialisation of votes on election day would not give optimism for free and fair elections in 2019.

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