There were discrepancies in the budget for the 2019 general election passed by the National Assembly yesterday as the Senate and the House of Representatives approved what appeared to be different figures for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the five security agencies involved in the polls. The upper chamber approved the sum of N242 billion (N242,245,050,100) for INEC and the five security agencies, while the lower chamber approved a total of N831.259 billion (N831,259,220,255.00) for INEC and the security agencies. The discrepancies amounted to about N600 billion in what was approved by the two chambers of the National Assembly. A close look at what was passed by the two chambers showed that the variance hinged basically on the procedures and method of presentation of the approved budgets by the two chambers. Details of the N831.259 billion by the House indicate that N589.014 billion is money already appropriated for the commission and agencies in the 2018 budget, while N242.245 billion was the virement requested by President Muhammadu Buhari. The security agencies included in the election budget are the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA), Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
President Muhammadu Buhari had presented a supplementary budget to the National Assembly on July 18 in which he sought the approval of the lawmakers to fund the 2019 polls. The president, in his letter to the National Assembly, titled, “Request for Virement and Supplementary 2018 Budget,” specifically asked the legislature to reallocate part of the N578 billion voted to the projects inserted into the 2018 Appropriation Act by the lawmakers to fund the elections and critical infrastructure. Moving the motion, the chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Malam Mustapha Dawaki, recalled that a communication from President Buhari for virement in the Appropriation Act, 2018 was read at plenary. He said, “The House notes that the request was in respect of virement of funds to finance INEC and security agencies toward the preparation for the 2019 General Elections for which no provisions were made in the 2018 Appropriation Act. “The House is aware that the virement has become necessary in order to appropriate funds to enable the relevant agencies to commence preparation toward a free and fair election in 2019; “The House also notes that the total amount of virement being proposed for the INEC and other security agencies is N831,259,220,255.00”. Giving the breakdown, Dawaki said INEC is to get N234,507, 272,393.00; Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), N46,948,839,426.00 and Department of State Security Service (DSS) to get N50,791,852,568.00. He added that Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is to get N82,834,042,256.00; Nigeria Police Force (NPF), N351,562,210,645.00 and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is to get N64,615,002,968.00.
Dawaki said the grand total of the money for approval was N831,259,220,255.00. The motion received a mass approval when the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, put the matter to a voice vote.
On its part, the Senate approved the sum of N53.2billion as allocation for relevant security agencies in addition to the N189billion it approved for INEC for the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The Nigeria Police Force, in its original proposal forwarded to the National Assembly by President Buhari through a letter in July sought N30billion for the polls, but the Red Chamber approved N27.341billion, even as it also reduced the N12,213,282,455.00billion proposed for DSS to N10.213billion. The N5billion deducted from the budgetary estimates of the Police and DSS were however added to the N4,281,500,000.00billion allocated for the office of the National Security Adviser, jerking it up to N9.481billion. The N189billion budgetary proposals for INEC was approved, while N2.628billion was approved for National Immigration Service (NIS) and N3.573billion for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. Approvals of the elections budget for 2019 polls by both chambers were sequel to recommendations made to that effect by their appropriation committees. The Committee in its report presented to the Senate by its chairman, Danjuma Goje, also differed with the president on source of virement for the N242billion.
While the president in his July letter, urged the federal lawmakers to vire the money from the N578billion special votes they allegedly inserted into the N9.12trillion 2018 budget through addition of about 1,403 projects , both the Senate and the House of Representatives in their approval of the N242billion elections budget, ordered for its virement from Special Intervention Programme (both recurrent and capital ).
As recommended and approved by both chambers, N194.7 billion out of the N242billion would be vired from N350billion recurrent component of the Special Intervention Programme, while the balance of N47.498billion would be vired from N150billion capital component of the Special Intervention Programme . In his remarks after the approval of the N242billion election budget, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said, “The much expected elections budget has been passed and approved here in the Senate , the same way I believe is done in the House of Representatives.
“It is the hope of the National Assembly and Nigerians generally that with this approval, INEC and other relevant agencies will ensure credible, free, fair and safe elections come 2019”.
Reps Pass Rejected Electoral Amendment Bill
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed the controversial Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, earlier rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari had withheld assent to the bill on August 30 citing some notable lacunas.
But the chairman of INEC Committee on Electoral Matters, Dukku noted that all the issues raised by President Buhari while declining his assent to the bill that ranges from election sequence, cross referencing error or poor drafting, card reader, omission of names, death of a candidate before an election, donation to political parties, election expenses and other related matters as captured were squarely addressed.
She equally noted that all the issues mentioned have always been parts of crucial matters that are of germane concerns in any electoral amendment process across the world.
Senate Receives Report On Rejected Electoral Amendment Bill
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday received the report on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, 2018 rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is coming amidst widespread speculations that the Senate had override the president and has passed the bill.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif laid the report of the committee that reviewed the rejected bill before the Red Chamber.
The National Assembly had considered and treated the issues raised by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill and reviewed it.
Buhari had refused to assent to the bill, which was sent to him for signing into law by the National Assembly.
The President rejected the bill on the ground that new sequence of election was introduced in section 25(1) of the bill.
Buhari also said his blatant rejection of the bill was hinged on drafting errors.
When Buhari sent the bill back to the National Assembly, a joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was constituted to review it.
Senate In Rowdy Session Over $3.58bn Subsidy Probe
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday resolved to probe the sum of $3.58 billion subsidy recovery fund stocked in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without appropriation. The Red Chamber, which was thrown in disarray when the issue came up, said the money is huge and should not be left in the hands of few persons in the NNPC without it being properly declared and utilised. The Senate particularly accused the Managing Director and the Executive Director of the NNPC for stocking the money in the corporation’s coffers and for changing its nomenclature. The resolution of the upper chamber followed a motion by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, who noted that the money had become ‘slush’ fund that is not appropriated and must therefore be investigated.
Consequently, Senate constituted an adhoc committee to investigate the matter, gather facts and figures and submit its report. It also summoned the management of the NNPC to cooperate with the mandated committee and to offer relevant information that would give clarity to the matter. However, there was uproar in the upper chamber when the matter was raised as Senators openly disagreed over what committee should be obligated to carry out the probe. Trouble started when Senate President Bukola Saraki announced the imperative for constituting an adhoc probe committee and quickly appointed the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, to chair it. Immediately, some lawmakers alleged that the Senate committee on Petroleum (downstream), chaired by Senator Kabir Marafa, is solely obligated by the Senate to oversee NNPC and other petroleum matters. But some Senators blatantly disagreed and alleged that the Marafa-led committee has compromised in previous assignments. The aggrieved Senators, including Ali Ndume (Borno South) who spoke on the matter, alleged fears that the committee lacks the capacity to handle the probe. It was at this point that Senator Marafa strongly objected, stating angrily that the committee he chairs had never at ny point in time compromised on any assignment. He insisted that those alleging must apologise. While mandating the committee to carry out its assignment, Saraki explained that it was necessary for the adhoc committee to be headed by Lawan to probe the subsidy recovery fund so as to enable the Senate avoid being partisan on the issue But the Senate leader categorically declined to head the committee, citing his integrity as reason he cannot carry out the job. Lawan noted that it took him several years to build his integrity and that he cannot dabble into anything that would tamper with it. However, Saraki insisted, saying “the matter is weighty and we need to get the facts so that we are not partisan; and so Leader, you cannot reject the job.”
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