The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has resigned to its fate by accepting the N143billion approved for it to conduct the 2019 general election by the National Assembly joint committee on INEC.
The commission yesterday submitted a reviewed budgetary proposal of N143billion to the joint committee for approval.
The joint committee had on Monday adopted for passage the N143billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari for funding the conduct of 2019 polls instead of the N189billion requested by INEC.
But the electoral body dismissed the decision of the National Assembly joint committee, which approved the N143 billion for the conduct of the general election, saying it was a mere committee’s decision that was not final.
It said the approval by the committee was still subject to deliberation before it is forwarded to the president.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on Monday evening, INEC’s director of Voter Education and Publicity, Barr Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, had said the amount was not the final approval.
Uzzi said the commission will still have to come back to the table if the N189.8 billion it requested was not approved.
“Committee does not forward decisions to the president. They will passed it to both houses of the National Assembly for deliberation before onward passage to the president,” he noted.
However, with the submission of a reviewed budgetary proposal pruned to accommodate the N143billion yesterday, INEC has complied with what was adopted by the joint committee of the National Assembly on Monday for the 2019 polls.
The electoral body had presented N189billion to the committee for approval before the N143billion budgetary request made on its behalf by President Muhammadu Buhari through a virement to the National Assembly last month.
After about two weeks of deliberation on the two separate requests, the committee adopted the N143billion the president sought for in the letter since the N45.6billion difference is to be provided for in the 2019 budget.
Announcing INEC’s decision to comply with N143billion election budget, chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP Bauchi North), said after a closed-door session that the electoral body has sent a reviewed budget to the committee within the ambit of N143billion.
He disclosed that a sub-committee has been set up to look into the details of the new budget submitted by INEC.
The sub-committee, according to Nazif, is expected to complete its assignment today and table it for consideration by 4pm.
Also speaking with journalists, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North) said the committee is determined to urgently complete work on the election budget.
He denied allegations that the committee was deliberately slowing down the process in order to frustrate efforts being made to reconvene National Assembly.
He added that part of the reason for setting up the sub-committee is to speed up the legislative processes for final approval of the election budget.
Court Orders Speedy Hearing On Suit Against Saraki’s Removal
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered accelerated hearing of a suit brought before it seeking to stop an alleged forceful removal or impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki from office.
The court headed by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba however refused to grant reliefs 1, 2 and 3 of the exparte motion, which sought an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants in the suit from taking any untoward action or move to forcefully remove or impeach the Senate President from office.
Senator Rafiu Adebayo (Kwara South) and Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central) had dragged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and others before the court, asking it to stop Saraki’s removal.
Other defendants in the suit are the Senate, the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawal (Senate Leader), Senator Bala Ibn Nallah (Deputy Senate Leader), Senator Emma Bwacha (Deputy Minority Leader), Clerk of the Senate and Deputy Clerk of the Senate.
When the case came up yesterday, counsel to the plaintiffs, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), informed the court that he had a motion exparte dated August 27, 2018.
Etiaba who also had Mahmoud Magaji (SAN) with him as plaintiffs’ counsel filed the motion exparte pursuant to Order 26 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules.
Basically, the exparte motion sought an order of interim injunction in reliefs 1, 2, and 3 restraining the defendants from taking any untoward action or move to forcefully remove or impeach the Senate President from office.
Reliefs 4 and 5 of the exparte motion prayed the court for an order of substituted service of court processes on the defendants.
While arguing the motion, Etiaba said in the event the court was constrained to grant reliefs 1, 2 and 3, the alternative of the plaintiffs’ prayer is for the court to make preservatory orders in order to protect the res (subject matter) of the suit.
The plaintiffs’ counsel told the court that preservatory orders will take away their fears, even as he contended that under section 6 of the constitution, the court has inherent jurisdiction to make such an order.
In a short ruling, Justice Dimgba held that in respect of reliefs 1, 2 and 3, which are orders of interim injunction, he believes “the proper order to make is an order of accelerated hearing of the suit so that the court can consider and determine the merits of the substantive case expeditiously.
“Even though reliefs 1, 2, and 3, are not granted, needless to say, parties have been enjoined to respect the authority of the court and the integrity of the judicial process and should not take steps that will render the matter nugatory”, the judge added.
He granted reliefs 4 and 5 by ordering substituted service of court processes, the originating summons and motion for injunction on the 1st to 8th defendants through the Clerk of the National Assembly.
In addition, Justice Dimgba ordered substituted service on the 10th to 12th defendants by courier service.
Accordingly, the court adjourned to September 6 for accelerated hearing of the suit brought by way of originating summons.
“Counsels should take necessary steps to serve all the parties with the processes”, the judge ruled.
The court also adjourned a similar suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/843/2018, filed by Senator Rafiu Adebayo against the Senate and 11 others to September 13 for hearing.
Specifically, the 2nd suit is seeking an order restraining the defendants from forcefully and illegally reopening the Senate chamber.
Again, APC, PDP Trade Words
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday engaged themselves in another war of words over alleged massive corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Specifically, APC said there is no verifiable evidence of underhand dealings in the operations of NNPC as was alleged by the PDP.
The opposition party had alleged massive corruption to the tune of over N9 trillion in the operations of NNPC and urged President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration to clarify on the issues raised.
But APC argued yesterday that the basis for PDP’s allegation, which was a leaked memo from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in 2017 detailing alleged underhand oil contracts to the tune of N9 trillion at the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, has been overtaken by events.
In a statement issued by its acting national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, the party said it is a matter of public knowledge that the author of the memo openly proclaimed that the issues raised in the letter were not on fraud but on governance and suggestions on ways to go about it.
According to APC, it was clearly stated then by the NNPC in response to the leaked document that apart from the 618km Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC) production service contracts, all the other transactions mentioned in the memo were not procurement contracts.
The governing party said NNPC also stated then that for both the Crude Term Contract and the Direct Sale and Direct Purchase (DSDP) agreements, there are no specific values attached to each transaction to warrant the values of $10 billion and $5 billion respectively placed on them in the leaked document.
“Thus it was inappropriate to attach arbitrary values to the shortlists with the aim of classifying the transactions as contracts. They are merely the short listing of prospective off-takers of crude oil and suppliers of petroleum products under agreed terms,” APC said.
While responding to the alleged diversion of crude oil worth N1.1 trillion using 18 unregistered companies, APC said from every indication, the Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD) of the NNPC has been able to implement reforms which has brought about transparency in sales, marketing and general management of the various grades of Nigeria’s equity crude oil.
Although there was no direct response to the charge of diversion of N1.1 trillion by unregistered firms, APC said the reforms in the sector had ensured a more open and transparent crude oil sales contract awards.
APC said that based on the reforms, the NNPC-COMD is able to achieve an end-to-end monitoring of every barrel of crude oil sold in the country, adding that it is “inconceivable that the PDP or anybody could ascribe such patently bogus transaction to NNPC”.
On alleged billions of unremitted revenue from sale of crude for which there have been deadlock at the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), APC said the remittances to the Federation Account have never been flat as asserted.
Earlier yesterday, the PDP had challenged President Buhari to explain the whereabouts of the N4trillion unremitted oil revenue as contained in an audit report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, a firm which they said was commissioned by his administration.
The party stated that the report further confirms that President Buhari has been “presiding over a humongous corrupt administration, while at the same time posturing as Mr Integrity and pointing accusing fingers on everyone else but himself.”
A statement by PDP’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, to this effect noted: “Nigerians, particularly those who have been defending the Buhari administration were shocked by revelations in the audit report of the theft of N4trillion in a sector that is under the direct supervision of ‘honest’ President Buhari, as Minister of Petroleum Resources”
US Has No Partisan Interest In 2019 Polls – Envoy
Meanwhile, the Counsellor for Public Affairs, Embassy of the United States of America, Mr Aruba Amirthanayagam declared yesterday that America will not be supporting any of the parties in the 2019 general election.
“America will not take side. We want the winner to be elected in a free and fair contest. From the US perspective, we want free, peaceful and credible election. We will do all we can to assist Nigeria’s government”, he said
The Counsellor spoke during a courtesy visit to the executive director of Prestige FM radio station, Alhaji Zubair Idris.
On the statement credited to President Donald Trump that Nigeria’s President was ‘lifeless’ when he paid a visit to White House in April, the Counselor said, “We have no specific comment on that. A newspaper published it; the paper should comment on it.”
He urged the INEC to repeat its 2015 general election success in the 2019 polls.
Amirthanayagam noted that the performance of INEC in 2015 was generally acknowledged as free, fair and transparent and as such, the electoral body should perform better in 2019.
He said: “The United States expects that the 2019 general election will be free and transparent,” even as he urged all stakeholders to work towards achieving this goal.
“I think we should repeat the success we had in the last election because we have had elections in some parts of Africa that have not gone well. What we got in 2015 was great for Nigeria and for the rest of Africa and other developing countries,” he added.