The forthcoming general elections will gulp about N243 billion. Of this sum, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will spend N189.8 billion, representing 73.51 percent of the amount.
The remaining N52.45bn (26. 49 percent) would be expended on security agencies to ensure a hitch-free process. For a country that is going through economic downturn, spending such an amount to conduct election is very high. The election budget is about 44 times higher than what the 36 federal universities will spend on capital projects in 2018. The country spent N108.8 billion – less than half of the current figure – to conduct the 2015 general elections that produced President Muhammadu Buhari. It is worrisome that the cost of conducting general elections in Nigeria has kept galloping and there is a need to cut it down drastically, without undermining the credibility of the process. Voter registration, compilation of voter register, provision of election security and provision of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, amongst others, can be carried out without necessarily shooting up the overall cost during every process.The budget for next year’s elections is about $50 million higher than what was spent during 2015 elections. What is approved for INEC this year is also more than half of what the commission got from 1999 to 2015 as election expenditure. From 1999 to 2018, INEC has received N450 billion from the federal government to conduct elections in the country. This figure does not include other money the Commission got from international organisations working on election matters during the period.
What Nigeria will spend to conduct the 2019 elections is $600 million higher than what the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) spent during the country’s 2014 general elections in which 553.8 million people voted, out of 815 million registered voters in that country. Nigeria’s election expenditure also surpasses those of Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and some other bigger economies. For instance, Canada spent $375 million on an election where 17.5 million voted. The United Kingdom spent £113 million during its 2010 parliamentary elections in which 45.6 million voted. Kenya, with 14.3 million registered voters, spent $427m during its general elections in 2012 and $499m in 2017, while Australia, with 14.7 million voters, spent $197.6m for the House of Representatives and a half of Senate elections in 2013. A review of official documents of INEC budgetary allocations shows that the cost of elections has been rising since the country’s return to democracy in 1999. The total budgetary allocations INEC received from the federal government from 1999 to 2018 was N730.99bn, according to official documents. Of this sum, N450bn was captured under ‘electoral expenditure,’ N191.8bn was ‘personnel cost,’ N36.9bn was ‘overhead cost’ while N54.7bn was ‘capital expenditure projects.’ The electoral expenditure started with N1.5bn in 1999, rising to N29bn in 2002, N45.5bn in 2006 and N111bn in 2010. It came down to N87.8bn in 2014.
The official documents further revealed that the electoral umpire’s highest total budgetary expenditure was during the 2015 elections where it spent a total of N236.7bn from 2012 to 2015.
The electoral commission spent about N212.6bn from 2008 to 2011; N84.6bn from 2004 to 2007, and N54.2bn from 2000 to 2003, according to the INEC data. But despite the huge spending on elections in Nigeria, the process still records fraudulent electoral outcomes and violence, showing that huge funding does not necessarily translate to electoral integrity. Nigeria must stop wastefulness in every election cycle and build a credible system like other countries where conducting an election is not an avenue for fleecing the country.
It is important to ensure due diligence in procurement, and that oversight organs of government scrutinise the election spending thoroughly in order to check the practice of inflating costs by officials.
INEC should also publicise previous audit reports to enable comparison of costs allocated for various items previously and now. It is our considered opinion that the nation cannot continue to spend so much in conducting elections when there are a lot of other competing needs, especially in a country where over 100 million people are battling with poverty on a daily basis. Our election managers must lift this economic burden from Nigeria by running a cost-efficient process.
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