Be­tween INEC’s N93 bil­lion de­mand and prepa­ra­tions for 2015

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Ibrahim Kabiru Sule

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.

Prof. At­tahiru Jega

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