In a gruesome violation of federal campaign finance regulations, a top Nigerian financial services outfit GTBank donated at least N200 million to the campaign coffers of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, according to a cache of suspicious bank transactions records in possession of Peoples Gazette.
The financial records said GTBank’s Investment One fund management department paid N200 million in three increments of N100 million, N50 million and N50 million to Mr Osinbajo’s campaign account in the run-up to 2015 presidential election in which he stood as the running mate of Muhammadu Buhari.
The transactions marked a brazen violation of federal campaign finance law that prohibits the donation of more than N1 million to a candidate in a presidential race. The law recommends harsh criminal punishment for both the giver and the receiver of any amount above the legal limit.
Similarly, the documents showed Dapo Akinosun, the Managing Partner at Mr Osinbajo’s law firm SimmonsCooper Partners, deposited N50 million naira in two payments of N25 million into the same campaign account for Mr Osinbajo in 2015.
Two other lawyers who also violated federal law were Olufemi Atoyebi, the Principal Partner at Femi Atoyebi and Co, and Temitope Lawani, the co-founder and Managing Partner at Helios Investment Partners. They paid N10 million each, well above the allowable limit of N1 million.
SimmonsCooper, a white-shoe law office which Mr Osinbajo co-founded and ran until he became vice president in 2015, has been taking federal contracts under the Buhari administration.
Investment One’s CEO Ademola Aofoloju admitted knowledge of the transactions but insisted they were not inappropriate.
“Any transactions we carry out for our clients are privileged and confidential,” Mr Aofoloju said.
When asked why the N200 million transaction did not reflect in the firm’s financial report against regulatory standards, Mr Aofolaju said the matter was “classified.”
Segun Agbaje, CEO of GTBank, told The Gazette the banking giant had divested its interest in Investment One since 2011 but did not clarify whether or not the divestment was concluded as of 2015 when the illegal transactions were carried out.
However, at the time of filing this report, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO) has acquired 100 percent shares in Investment One Funds Management Limited. Two former GTBank officials told The Gazette the company had not concluded its divestment from Investment One as of the time of the illegal donations to Mr Osinbajo’s campaign.
Mr Akinosun did not return calls, messages and letters from The Gazette seeking comments for this story. A spokesman for the vice president did not return requests seeking comments.
The transactions were a direct violation of the Nigerian Electoral Act 2010 which states in section 91(9) that “No individual or other entity shall donate more than N1,000,000.00 to any candidate.” Subsection 11 said: “Any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) shall on conviction be liable to a maximum fine of N500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of 9 months or both.”
This violation of Nigerian electoral law has been described as a “recurring anathema in our electoral process”, according to Ariyo-Dare Atoye, a political analyst focused on electoral reforms.
“Right from the next elections in 2011, after the 2010 law was promulgated, political parties and their candidates have continued to act in contempt of this campaign donation law,” Mr Atoye told The Gazette. “Almost every candidate running for a higher office who can or has attracted support from friends and groups is guilty of this law over and over, profiting from an unstructured system.”
Mr Atoye noted the inability of the country’s electoral body to establish strong operational guidelines to enforce the provisions capable of regulating money politics.
INEC chariman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu
“Once the Electoral Act 2022 becomes operational, we must leverage its newness to demand the operationalisation of the campaign donation regulatory law, including ensuring appropriate punishment for defaulters,” Mr Atoye said. “Only a thorough implementation of election campaign financing rules can guarantee young Nigerians and women the chances of aspiring to contest and win.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declined comments about whether or not it would pursue criminal charges against GTBank, Mr Akinosun and other lawyers for violating campaign finance law.