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NASS, INEC Budget and 2019 polls

For the past two weeks, uncertainty has trailed the prospect of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adequately prepare for the smooth and hitch-free conduct of the 2019 general election based on the war-of-words and brick-bats between the executive and the National Assembly on the one hand,

and between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and leadership of the legislature over the fate of the supplementary budget and virement request from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Both the Presidency and the hierarchy of the APC had bared their fangs when the National Assembly adjourned to proceed on its annual recess, following the dramatic gale of defections that swept through the Senate and House of Representatives, with the leadership of the Senate,

specifically Senate President Bukola Saraki being accused of sabotage and putting the conduct of the 2019 polls in jeopardy for failing to consider and approve the budget for INEC.

While the mutual suspicion reigned among the contending parties, over whether the strident calls for the reconvening of the National Assembly wasn’t a ploy to perfect the impeachment of Saraki as championed by the APC leadership, the National Assembly insisted there were procedures to be complied with before the annual recess can be cut short.

Observers of the political tussle were skeptical about an early resolve of the impasse in the national interest beyond and above political calculations by the gladiators ahead of the general elections

But a ray of light emerged on Tuesday, when in a joint statement, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, said that irrespective of when the National Assembly would reconvene, they had mandated the joint committees of both chambers to interface with INEC to ensure how quickly the budget for the electoral umpire can be passed.

While the argument by the National Assembly leadership blaming the executive for not being proactive in the early submission of the INEC budget proposal for consideration and passage holds water,

we must equally point accusing fingers at the National Assembly for allowing political considerations and calculations cloud their sense of patriotism, and avoiding the unnecessary over-heating of the polity as has been witnessed since the adjournment of plenary.

However, we commend the National Assembly for commencing the process of considering the INEC budget on Wednesday, and hearkening to the voice of reason because it’s our belief that early preparations by the electoral umpire and other key stakeholders such as the security agencies is key to the successful conduct of credible, transparent and hitch-free polls that would be acceptable to all.

But we must caution here that while the latest action by the National Assembly is heart-warming and portrays the legislature as a listening body, care must be taken to go through the election budget with a fine tooth comb by the lawmakers,

considering the humongous figures emerging from the budget defence by the management of INEC at the National Assembly to curtail fraud in the haste to pass the budget and ultimately, douse tension in the country.

We are of the opinion that this altruistic step will reduce avoidable political tension in the land as we prepare for the 2019 polls.

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