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Dogara tackles Buhari, says FG’s ‘Trader Moni’ is a form of voter inducement

SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has criticised the ‘Trader Moni’ initiative of the federal government, saying it is a form of voter inducement and violates the Electoral Act.

Dogara said this at a public hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC and Political Parties Matters on Vote-buying and Improving the Electoral Processes in Nigeria, on Monday, in Abuja.

The ‘Trader Moni’ initiative is one of the social intervention programmes of the Buhari administration whereby 30,000 petty traders from each state of the federation are given small, interest-free loans of N10,000 each, repayable within six months. The aim, according to the government, is to provide the small traders with funds to sustain and boost their businesses.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been going around many states across the country to kick-off the programmes.

But many have complained that the programme is a disguise by the government in power to induce voters ahead of the 2019 general election.

For instance, the ‘Trader Moni’ programme was launched in Osun State on September 4, just a few weeks to the state’s governorship election on September 22 this year.

Dogara, in his speech on Monday, maintained that the programme is a form of vote buying, regardless of how noble the intention may seem.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara

“It is instructive to note that the Electoral Act anticipated and captured most forms of electoral fraud including inducement and vote buying,” Dogara said.

“I am afraid that such endeavours, no matter how noble the intentions behind them, may fall within the all-encompassing provisions of S. 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); and S.(124)(2)(4)(5) and S. 130 of the Electoral Act.

“Although penalties are not stringent, there is also lack of political will to implement the laws as it is, even if it were to offer feeble deterrence to violators. Arrests are hardly made and even where arrests are made, prosecutions are unheard of.

“Let me seize this opportunity to call on all people of goodwill in our country to rise in condemnation and denunciation of vote-buying and all forms of electoral malpractices. Indeed, electoral fraud is one of the worst forms of corruption, and should be treated as such.”

Section 124 of the Electoral Act talks about “Bribery and Conspiracy” in election matters. Among other things, the section stipulates that anyone who “directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives, lends or agrees to give or lend, or offers any money or valuable consideration” commits an offence.

Subsection 124 (b) states more clearly that “any person who… directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, corruptly makes any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement to or for any person, in order to induce such person to procure or to endeavour to procure the return of any person as a member of a legislative house or to an elective office or the vote of any voter at any election,” commits an offence is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.

The law also forbids any voter from receiving any such “money, gift, loan…for himself, or for any other person, for voting or agreeing to vote… at any such election”.

The presidency has consistently stated that the ‘Trader Moni’ initiative has nothing to do with the forthcoming election.

However, the programme is also being used as a form of informal campaign for the re-election bid of President Buhari.

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