Fears over funding of the 2019 general elections was allayed on Wednesday as the Senate has agreed to reconvene next week to consider the N164 billion virement request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
This indication was given by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who briefly told journalists after a rescheduled meeting of INEC management with leadership of the National Assembly at the NASS complex in Abuja.
The meeting, which was supposed to hold on Tuesday was stalled by the siege on the National Assembly complex by operatives of the Department of States Security (DSS).
The meeting, which lasted for two hours, had in attendance the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of both chambers.
Prof. Yakubu said the budget will be approved next week to provide spending for a six months series of activities preceding the commencement of the election 190 days away..
Prof. Yakubu said: “The most important thing to say was that INEC was invited to meet with NASS leadership on how the proposed budget for the 2019 elections can be speedily consider and appropriated by NASS.
We have been assured of speedy passage of the budget perhaps as early as next week. N242 billion is the total amount proposed.”
Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda, who was also at the meeting, agreed that if need be, “we will resume to consider the virement request and we are agreeing we will fix a date to discuss this budget and ensure passage.”
Before the meeting was dissolved into closed door session, Saraki had assured the INEC boss that the National Assembly is more committed on raising the nation’s electoral processes, adding, “our role is to make amendment on the electoral Act.
“We are more committed than ever so that we have election in 2019 that is credible and the only way to do that is to ensure that you have all that is necessary to make the election efficient. The import of today’s meeting is to see how INEC can perform and so our role is to assist you achieve that.”
In his remarks at the meeting, INEC boss said, “we are now more energized, more reassured that our plans for the 2019 general elections are absolute in progress. We have from today exactly 191 days to the opening of polling units by 8am on Saturday, February, 2019.
“There are activities we have to undertake for a minimum of six months to the election day and six months to election day kick-start from the 15th of August.
It means we have eight days to the commencement of these activities. We are confidence that all the grey areas will be ironed out and as far as INEC is concerned, our own component of the cost of 2019 elections will be speedily appropriated by the National Assembly.
“Your excellency, I am sure you are aware this is the very first time in the history of our elections that the budget for elections in Nigeria is subjected to approval by the National Assembly in this way.”
In his speech earlier at the world press conference, Saraki had said “we stand committed to doing our utmost as lawmakers to ensure that the responsibility and functionality of governance are met.
Although we are on annual break, we are daily reviewing the situation and are alive to the responsibility to take action as necessary.
“Unfortunately, yesterday’s shutdown prevented us from meeting with INEC, as scheduled, to address funding concerns. We will continue to look into the matter.
In the spirit of that, we also appeal to Mr. President to sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill which has been sent for his assent.”
While fielding questions on INEC request, Saraki said it is amazing that people are not asking what INEC was doing that they did not submit their request until the lawmakers embarked on recess.
He said from January through June, the lawmakers were on ground and nobody from the Executive made any request of additional funds for the INEC.
Saraki said that in the interest of the country, the leadership of the assembly would meet with INEC and if there is need to reconvene, the legislators will.
He said that the assembly wants a free and fair elections and that allegations claiming that the institution was trying to sabotage INEC was not true.
On July 17, 2017, the President through an executive communication requested the Senate to fund the N164,104,792,065.00 2018 supplementary budget for the conduct of the 2019 election , from money he alleged was inserted in the 2018 budget by the legislature.
A summary of the N242,445,322,900 proposal for the 2019 General Elections indicated that the INEC gets a total N143,512,529,455 from 2018 supplementary and N45,695,015,438 from 2019 budget;
Office of National Security Adviser gets N3,855,500,000 from 2018 supplementary and N426,000,000 from 2019 budget; Department of State Security gets N2,903,638,000 from 2018 supplementary and N9,309,644,455 from 2019 budget;
Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps gets N1,845,597,000 from 2018 supplementary and N1,727,937,500 from 2019 budget; Nigeria Police Force gets N11,457,417,432 from 2018 supplementary
and N19,083,900,000 from 2019 budget and Nigerian Immigration Service gets N530,110,178 from 2018 supplement and N2,098,033,142 from 2019 budget.
He said the allocation became imperative to ensure that adequate arrangements are made for free and fair elections as it has become necessary to appropriate funds to enable the relevant agencies to commence preparations.