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2019: Will Shortfall In INEC Budget Affect Polls?



In this report, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on whether the difference of N46 billion in the proposed N189.8 billion 2019 budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will affect conduct of the poll.

Since the last  two years, the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) has assured Nigerians of  free, fair and credible elections in the 2019 general elections.

Their assurance was also followed by that of the president, Muhammadu Buhari who consistently said Nigerians should expect free and fair election.

Since last year, INEC, after several attempts, refused to disclosed it’s budget to Nigerians but forwarded about N189.8 billion to the presidency as its estimate for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

The presidency, it was gathered, was unable to forward that amount to the National Assembly for approval.

In the INEC election circle, their plans for new elections start the day various results are announced.

Until last month, it was gathered, the presidency forwarded a total sum of about N242 billion to the National Assembly for approval to be used by INEC and other security agencies for the 2019 general elections.

Out of this amount, it was gathered that only N143 billion was approved for INEC by the National Assembly’s join committee.

Even though the electoral umpire estimated N189.8 billion for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, the presidency divided INEC budget into two components to be funded by the 2018 and the 2019 Nigeria budget.

This it was gathered, caused an impasse between the executive and the legislature which was later resolved after an explanation by the minister of budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma.

The presidency divided the source for funding of the INEC budget into two components with about N54 billion included in the 2019 budget while about N145bn was to be raised in the 2018 budget.

This pitched the lawmakers against the presidency. The lawmakers complained that the federal government broke INEC budget into two and insisted they were going to work on what was given to them by the president.

N54 billion was to be raised for INEC in the 2019 budget while about N145 billion was to be raised in the 2018 budget out of the N189.8billion budgeted for the 2019 general elections.

While the National Assembly join committee approved N143 billion for INEC out of about N242 billion request sent to it by the presidency, there is a difference of about N46 billion in the INEC’s N189.8billion budget.

INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Barr Oluwole Osaze Uzzi had told LEADERSHIP that the N143 billion approved for them by the join committee of the national assembly was not the final approval.

Even though reports suggested the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu had accepted the National Assembly join committee approval, Uzzi  said the commission will still have to come back to the table if it’s N189.8 billion request is 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,” Uzzi said.

“We don’t want to speculate. Once they (Senate/House of Reps) passed the budget into law, we will comeback and reset it,” Uzzi added.

“It is not true that our budget has been reduced to N143 billion,” INEC Chairman’s press secretary, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi said.

According to Oyekanmi, the National Assembly followed what the president presented to them before arriving at the N143 billion which he said, is not the final approval for INEC.

“What happened was that President Muhammadu Buhari, in his letter to the National Assembly, broke the INEC Election budget into two components – N143,512,529,455 to be appropriated in the 2018 budget and N45,695,015,438 to be taken to the 2019 budget,” he said.

Oyekanmi said in response, the National Assemble opted to take the first component – N143.5 billion.

“This does not mean that the other component has been rejected,” the INEC Chairman’s spokesman said adding that Nigerians should expect free fair and credible elections in 2019 general elections as promised.

“Absolutely,” Oyekanmi said, referring to a question thrown to him concerning their preparations to give Nigerians the best.

“We will continue to prepare for the general elections. We have been preparing since 2015,” he said, insisting that there budget has not been reduced.

“As I observed earlier, our budget has not been reduced. The National Assembly only took one of the components. It is too early to say that the second component will not be provided before the election,” Oyekanmi said.

The national chairman of United Peoples Congress (UPC) Dr Kenneth Ibe-Kalu said arithmetic don’t lie adding that whatever INEC is asking for should be given to them.

“Whatever INEC need which is properly itemized and properly calculated, there should not be a problem,” Ibe-Kalu said.

The UPC chairman said the National Assembly also has their own way of operation which must be respected.

“To appropriate, the executive has to make a proposal and they have to let the national assembly to also look into it step-by-step,” he said.

According to the chairman, if there is any misunderstanding of figures, they should have reconcile it at the period of discussion.

“And if there are things that INEC feel they require but were not captured by the join committee of the national assembly, I think there is still no problem. They can continue work with the N143 billion.”

“INEC should keep working. They can’t spent all the money in one day. They can make another request and the president can send a supplementary budget to the National Assembly as many times as INEC want money,” he added.

On whether sending frequent supplementary budget to the National Assembly will affect INEC preparations, Ebe-Kalu said it won’t affect the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

“It won’t affect the conduct of the elections. Budget takes a while to be implement even in my private company. Budget capture a whole lot of activities in a year. And activities are not done in one day. But for what INEC have already, let them deploy it and start preparing for the elections,” he said.

“If INEC can send some of the things they need that was not captured in the earlier approval to the presidency, the president can send a supplementary budget to the National Assembly for approval,” Ibe-Kalu disclosed further.

While calling on Nigerians not to worry about what is happening, Ibe-Kalu said INEC must start working on what is available to them.

“Let INEC start working on the ballot papers, logistics and other things they need now. The balance will be given to them. We should not overheat the polity on issues that ordinary other countries don’t have problem with,” the UPC chairman added.

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