At last, work has begun on the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 general elections.The chairman of the INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu on Wednesday defended the commission’s N189.2 billion budget at separate sessions with the Senate and House of Representatives committees on INEC.
Yakubu, who gave a breakdown of the various components of the budget, told the lawmakers that preparations for the poll ought to have started in earnest by August 15 (on Wednesday).
Documents submitted to the lawmakers by INEC indicated that election operational cost will gulp N134.4bn; election technology -N27.5bn; administrative cost -N22.6bn; and miscellaneous -N4.6bn
The INEC chair explained that there were significant increase in the variables and logistics for the 2019 election, compared to the 2019 poll that gulped N120 billion.
According to him, the commission will be conducting elections with about 91 political parties on the ballot with over 82 million registered voters.
The voter population in 2015 was about 70 million with about 40 political parties on the ballot.
Prof Yakubu said the figures could rise in the months ahead, as the commission still had 140 applications for party registration still pending; while the voter registration exercise had been extended by two weeks, to end August 30.
Also included in the budget was the cost of conducting elections into the six area councils in the Federal Capital Territory as the expiration of the tenure of the elected officials coincides with the general elections.
Also captured in the INEC budget is the Osun State governorship election coming up on September 22. The INEC chair said 48 political parties will participate in the Osun election.
The chairman of the Senate committee, Suleiman Nazif, assured the INEC of the legislature’s desire to expedite action of the budget, considering the time constraint.
Nazif said the committee members will meet again on Thursday through Friday to fast track the process and refer the documents to the Appropriation committee of the Senate.
On her part, the chairperson of the House of Representatives committee on INEC, Mrs. Aisha Dukku stressed the need for the parliament to approach the budget proposal from both process and content perspectives
Addressing the INEC chairman, Dukku said, “It is only by so doing that one can begin to unravel the intricacies of the entire range of issues involved and their interconnectedness.
“You will agree with me that for a government that promised change for its people, the foundation of this change ought to be evident in the way we plan our elections and electoral processes.
“The estimates should represent a true picture of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA)”.
She expressed concerns over INEC’s previous budgets, saying they were neither productive nor effective because of poor planning.
“It is my prayer and hope that the present administration would address the issues with budgeting, especially as regards funding; unlike the previous budgets that were not productive in the entire planning of elections”, Dukku added.