Nigerian Ruling PDP Regains Lead in Parliament’s Lower House

Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party retook its position as the largest party in the House of Representatives after a string of defections last year.

Five members of the opposing All Progressives Congress crossed over to the PDP, giving President Goodluck Jonathan’s party 178 members against the APC’s 168 seats in the 360-member lower house, still falling short of an absolute majority Speaker Aminu Tambuwal said yesterday in the capital, Abuja. All of the defectors came from northern Muslim majority states.

The ruling party has won all general elections since Africa’s biggest oil producer ended more than 15 years of military rule in 1999. Jonathan, a southern Christian, is facing a mounting challenge before elections next year from northern Muslims who accuse him of breaching an unwritten rule to rotate power between the two regions when he ran in the 2011 vote.

The PDP used public funds to award $1 million for each member of the lower house and $2 million for each senator that returned to its ranks, APC said in a statement on its website.

“It’s a wild accusation,” Olisa Metuh, the PDP’s national spokesman, said in a phone interview from Abuja today. “There’s no need for them to try and sow seeds of doubt in the minds of Nigerians about the credibility of our politicians.”

Budget Targets

While the government has said it plans to stick to its budget targets, central bank Governor Lamido Sanusi has warned of the threat of rising spending in the lead up to the 2015 vote. Expenditure climbed 17 percent before the 2011 presidential election.

“While we have no idea whether the ACP’s allegations about bribes are true, it is certain that both sides are offering financial sweeteners for political support,” Francois Conradie, an analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC Independent Economists, said in e-mailed comments today. “This is worsening corruption and service delivery and braking investment spending.”

Last month, the APC threatened to block Jonathan’s 2014 budget if he didn’t prevent attacks on its supporters in the southern oil-producing Rivers state. The region’s governor, Rotimi Amaechi, along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and four other governors, have quit the PDP to join the main opposition party.

Federal legislators in Rivers state are being offered $5 million each to return to the PDP, according to the APC.

Jonathan, 56, hasn’t said if he will run in the next vote. His administration is battling Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group in the north, rampant oil theft, falling revenue from crude oil exports and piracy off Nigeria’s coast.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has threatened to leave the PDP, said in a letter to Jonathan in December that he has failed to tackle graft and security threats in the country of about 170 million people.

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