Between INEC’s N93 billion demand and preparations for 2015
With less than a year to the 2015 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Election (INEC) has become engrossed in the preparation towards the elections.
The 2015 general elections would be the 5th since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
Due to this, there are heightened expectations on INEC to organise a free, fair and credible elections in 2015 to consolidate on the improvement made during the 2011 elections, especially in the face of the recent irregularities and logistic problems that nearly marred the governorship election in Anambra State.
INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, during a stakeholders meeting with the Senate committee on INEC last December, expressed the commission’s desire to organise a hitch-free and acceptable 2015 elections.
Jega, however, said for INEC to record such feat, the commission would need the sum of N93 billion in the year preceding the election. He said this would be channeled towards the preparations and conduct of the general elections.
The chairman stressed that INEC had spent about $8 on each voter during the previous general elections, which he said remains within the acceptable range in the global conduct of elections.
Since this revelation by the INEC chairman at the twilight of last year, many have been debating on the said amount. While some sections believe there is justification in voting the requested amount to INEC so long as it can guarantee free, fair and credible elections, others were quick to flay the demand, saying it is on the high side as the amount released to the commission in 2011 did not do much in building public confidence.
With the passage of the harmonised N4.695 trillion 2014 budget by both chambers of the National Assembly last week, INEC this year, would receive almost half of what it requested for the preparation and conduct of the 2015 general elections.
The commission, according to the federal government’s envelope budgetary system, has been allocated the sum of N45 billion.
Some lawmakers have voiced out their reservations as to the “too small” INEC allocation in the budget, describing the upcoming national assignment before the commission as a huge one.
Spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Rep Zakari Mohammed (APC, Kwara) had explained to journalists on the day they passed the 2014 budget that the lower chamber decided to harmonise its budget with that of the senate to avoid further delay in executing capital projects by different government agencies.
He nevertheless said that INEC’s N45 billion allocation could be considered to be not enough for the electoral body to organise and prepare well for the 2015 general elections.
Rep Mohammed added that the commission had reported to the lawmakers during the defence of the budget, complaining that the amount will not be enough and prayed that the lawmakers find ways of increasing the allocation.
Despite this, however, the N4.695 trillion 2014 budget as passed by both chambers reflected an increase of over N52 billion from the N4.642 trillion estimate submitted by the Federal Government on December 19, last year.
Despite the apparent concern of some of the lawmakers that INEC should receive more in a year preceding a major election, the increase in the budget went to other bodies other than the electoral body.
While voting for the passage of the budget on Thursday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal pointed how in a meeting with President Jonathan, leadership of the National Assembly complained to the president on the need to increase the allocation to some sectors including INEC.
Tambuwal, who was responding to Rep Goni Bukar Lawan’s protest against the federal government’s N2 billion North-East economic intervention, said the INEC budget is among what they complained about to the President.
But Rep Mohammed said the legislators would not tarry to vote additional money through the Supplementary budget of the federal government, which is in line with the Nigeria’s constitutional provisions.
On a positive side however, INEC is one of the few agencies placed on the first line charge, meaning that they access their budgetary allocations directly from the federation account, without having to pass through the finance ministry. This will surely quell the fears of hiccups in the last year’s budgetary releases to the sectors, which the finance minister attributed to the cash-flow problems of the country.
This was attested to by the INEC chairman, who, during last week’s interactive meeting with editors of the media houses in Abuja reflected on the commission’s financial autonomy, by stressing that INEC has never been more independent than now.
“We don’t go to the government cap in hand. Once our budget is appropriated by the National Assembly, it is transferred to a statutory account in the CBN which we access to conduct our activities,” he was quoted as saying.
Conversely, however, the commission’s chairman, Professor Jega had during a number of times complained of INEC’s financial predicament, which form part of the major constraints of the commission, especially in prosecuting election offenders.
INEC has said that the preparations for the 2015 general elections have been in top gear, especially in areas such as the Election Project Plan, Election Management System, constituency delimitation, continuous voter registration and voter education, distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) amongst many others.
It is hoped that with adequate funding, the electoral body would place itself in a position to do better than in 2011.