By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Wednesday queried the electoral agency for presenting a budget that was at variance with the one President Muhamadu Buhari sent to the National Assembly for the 2019 general elections.
While Buhari presented N143.512billion to the National Assembly for INEC, the commission’s chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, sent N189.2billion to the Senate Committee during its budget defence for the same elections.
After the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, declared the session open, and Yakubu and his commissioners and senators introduced themselves, the INEC boss was asked to present his budget.
In his presentation, Yakubu said that the sum of N134.4billion was election operation cost, while N27.5 billion was technological cost.
He also explained that of the figure, the sum of N22.7billion was earmarked for administrative cost, and N4.6billion for miscellaneous cost.
But, a member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan, pointed out that there was a conflict of request in the budget between what President Buhari sent to the Senate and that of the INEC chairman.
He said: “There is a conflict of request here: From the letter presented by Mr. President and the budget of INEC, you are asking for N189 billion meanwhile, Mr. President wants N143billion in the 2018 budget explaining that the balance of about N45.7billion should be captured in the 2019 budget.
“The President is saying that the additional N45.7billion will be requested for in the 2019 budget. You are asking for N189 billion. Which of these requests should we focus on?” he asked.
In his response, Yakubu said that there was no conflict in the proposals, arguing that the figures the President requested for 2018 and 2019 budgets would add up to N189 billion.
“There is no conflict in the letters. If you add up the requests by the President and INEC, they are the same amount. The sequence of disbursement is up for the legislature and the executive to decide,” he stated.
Not convinced with his (Yakubu’s) explanations, the committee chairman directed that INEC and his team should to meet today to harmonise the proposals to avoid confusion during its passage, and also to avoid anything that might hamper the smooth conduct of the 2019 general elections.
Yakubu also said that the difference between the budget of INEC in 2015 and that of 2019 was as a result of several factors,including the increase in the number of registered voters.
According to him, there is a difference of N69 billion between the budget of INEC in 2015 and that of 2019, noting that the commission spent the sum of N120 billion in 2015.
“I wish to draw the attention of this committee to the fact that there is a difference of N69 billion in the budgets of 2015 and 2019. In 2015, we had 70 million registered voters. As at Saturday last week, we now have over 80 million registered voters.
“All major activities are pegged against the total number of voters. In 2015, we had only 42 political parties. We now have 91 registered political parties eligible to take part in the 2019 general elections.
“We are hoping that all the political parties will have seamless congresses and primaries. Another issue that we have accounted for is the processing costs of nominations.
“The cost of logistics is also different in 2019 as against 2015, because the pump price of petrol in 2015 is different from that of 2019. This will also have an impact,” he said.