By Ignatius Okorocha
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the National Assembly to approve N242 billion as requested by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The National Assembly had before embarking on its annual vacation trimmed the election vote to N189billion.
But Buhari in a letter he wrote to NASS on September 19, 2018 which the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read on Wednesday, said that that the entire N242 billion be considered for inclusion in his virement request under the 2018 Appropriation Act.
In the letter titled: “Request for virement/supplementary budget,” Buhari referred to the 2019 election budget he transmitted to the Senate last July where he said that N164 billion be drawn from the 2018 supplementary budget while N78 billion would form part of the 2019 budget of INEC and the security agencies.
He reminded the lawmakers that the Joint Committee of the National Assembly told the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, that it would be willing to consider accommodating the total amount required for the election, should he (President) make a formal request.
The letter read: “You may recall that in my letter dated 11th July, 2018, I requested for the kind consideration of the National Assembly for a virement under the 2018 Appropriation Act. Part of this request was for the funding of the requests made by INEC and security agencies for the 2019 general elections.
“In that letter, I indicated that INEC and the security agencies had indicated that their total funding requirements for the 2019 elections would amount to N242.445billion. Of that amount, I have requested that N164.104billion be accommodated in the 2018 Budget, by way of virement within the 2018 Appropriation Act, whilst the balance of N78.340billion, should be considered by the National Assembly as part of the 2019 budget.
“When the Hon. Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, appeared before the Joint Committee of the National Assembly, set up to consider my request, he was informed that the National Assembly would be willing to consider accommodating the total amount required for the funding of the 2019 elections as part of the virements of the 2018 Appropriation Act, provided there was a specific request made by me.
“In the light of the current realities, and in order to ensure that the 2019 general elections are not affected by any delays in the passage into law of the 2019 Budget, I accept this kind suggestion. I therefore wish to formally request that the total amount of N242.445billlion requested by INEC and the security agencies, be considered for inclusion in my virement request under the 2018 Appropriation Act.
“I look forward to your urgent consideration of this request to ensure that the 2019 general elections are properly conducted,” the President said.
The Senate had yesterday resolved to treat with dispatch Buhari’s earlier letter requesting the Upper House to consider and approved the sum of N189.207billion for INEC.
Buhari had earlier presented a budget of N143.51 billion to the National Assembly for the conduct of 2019 polls, while noting that additional sum of N46billion contained in the total package of N189billion be reflected in the 2019 Budget.
The joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on INEC had approved the sum of N143.51billion request by Buhari for the conduct of 2019 general election during the annual recess of National Assembly and had its report submitted to the Senate yesterday prior to the fresh request of the President.
Consequently, Saraki had upon receipt of the committee’s report from Senator Suleiman Nazif on INEC budget directed the Senate Committee on Appropriation headed by Senator Danjuma Goje to urgently consider and submit Buhari’s fresh request on INEC today for consideration and approval.
At committee meeting yesterday, Senator Goje said that the main trust of the parley was to consider INEC’s budget in addition to the source of its funding.
“We are going to combine the report of INEC Committee on the 2018 budget in addition to what President Buhari requested for 2019 and grant him the total amount,” he said.
The committee he said is inviting National Security Adviser, the DG of DSS, the Head of Civil Defence, the Inspector-General of Police and the DG of the Nigeria Immigration Service to defend their budget today with a view to submitting the report next week.