Indication has emerged on real reason why the National Assembly joint committee on Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) on Monday opted for N143billion against N189billion for 2019 elections budget INEC requested. It would be recalled that the joint committee Co – Chaired by Senator Suleiman Nazif ( PDP Bauchi North) and Hon Aisha Dukku ( APC Gombe) after two weeks of brainstorming and interface with the INEC officials and Minister of Budget and National Planning , Udoma Udo Udoma on desirability of approval of the N189billion, adopted the N143bn earlier requested for by President Muhammadu Buhari. President Buhari had last month before the National Assembly went on its ongoing recess, forwarded to it for approval , N242billion budget estimates from INEC for conduct of the elections.
The President in the virement seeking letter , explained that out of of the proposed N242, 445, 322, 600.00 billion estimated funding of the 2019 general elections , N164.104billion should be appropriated for, by the National Assembly through virement while the balance of N78.340billon would be provided for in the 2019 budget provisions .
Out of the N164bn expected to be vired from the N578bn additional votes the National Assembly inserted into the N9.12trillion through the 1,403 projects it included in the budget estimates, N143bn according to the President should be appropriated for INEC this year , while the balance of N45.6 billion would be captured for the commission in the 2019 budget .
But the INEC chairman , Professor Mahmood Yakubu and other top officials at two different sessions they had with the joint committee penultimate week, elaborately explained and insisted that the entire N189billion 2019 elections budget should be considered and approved for proper planning this year and smooth conduct next year.
INEC’s insistence on approval for the entire N189billion by the National Assembly this year came to the fore at the committee level penultimate week when the Chief whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye pointedly asked Prof Yakubu on whether the commission can cope with N143bn requested for by President Buhari this year, to which he said “ approval for the N189billion elections budget is our preference “.
Even the Budget Minister in his response to such question at the committee level said : “ The executive will be greatful if the entire N189billion INEC budget for 2019 general elections is approved at once , provided it doesn’t affect the overall size of the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget “
Though many of the committee members after Yakubu and Udoma’s submissions quickly bought into the idea but when reality of where to draw the balance of N45.6billion in making up for the N189billion dawn on them , they melted out .
Confirming the development, a member of the committee who vociferously pushed for adoption of N189billion budget during the interactive sessions with INEC officials , declared this morning that opponents of the N189bn defeated them at closed door session when question of where to draw the balance of N45.6 bn was raised.
According to the South South Senator, those against the N189billion INEC budget said since the President is planning to deplete the N578bn votes the federal lawmakers earmarked for the 1,403 additional projects to N350billion with his N228billion virement seeking letter he forwarded to both chambers of NASS last month, they won’t allow for further depletion of the special votes with any N45.6billion .
“ Rejection of the N189billion INEC budget for 2019 elections by NASS joint committee for the N143bn requested for by President Buhari this year , is all about where to source the balance of N45.6bn from and not any other reason .
“ My colleagues are not in anyway disposed to a situation where the money would have to be vired from the special votes again , more so, according to them , since President Buhari in his letter of request , promised to make provision for N45.6 bn elections budget balance in 2019 budget “ , he said .
He added that inability of the federal lawmakers to give room for additional virement from the special votes, has to do with the fact that the votes are already shared amongst themselves through the N1,403 projects added into the N9.12trillion 2018 budget.
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