The National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has for the third time, failed to reach a resolution on the proposed Election Budget of N189.2 billion presented by INEC.
The Senate Committee on INEC had on Wednesday invited the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, to present and explain the election budget. Members of the panel had queried the INEC boss for the N62 billion increase in the budget as against the 2015 election budget.
Mr Yakubu gave several reasons for the increase in the budget after which the committee adjourned to Thursday for further deliberation and possible resolution.
Members of the committee deliberated on whether to grant INEC’s request or that of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Even though Mr Buhari, in his letter to the Senate, requested that N189.2 billion be released to INEC, he had asked that N143.5 billion be released now and N45.6 billion be released in 2019.
However, the commission, in its presentation on Wednesday, demanded for the entire sum.
On Thursday, the joint committee again invited the INEC boss to give further clarifications on the budget.
The Chairman of the Senate committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, on Friday disclosed that the panel came to a conclusion that more clarifications needed to be made on the budget.
Also invited by the committee was the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, and the presidential liaison officer to the Senate, Ita Enang.
In an attempt to make clarification, Mr Udoma on Friday explained that the N189 billion presented by INEC “is not their regular budget, it is special election budget”.
He also told the panel that if they approve the entire N189 billion, President Buhari will have no objection.
“We will have no objection to your appropriating the whole amount, so you won’t have to reconsider this for the 2019 budget. If this is done, we will not include the N45 billion in the 2019 budget.
“If you appropriate the whole money now, the president will have no objection,” he said.
Mr Enang asked that the budget of other security agencies submitted by President Buhari be considered with that of INEC.
“The president also submitted the budget for the office of the National Security Adviser, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Immigration Service.
“These are all budgets relating to elections and the conduct of the 2019 elections and all I have heard and noticed is the budget of INEC. I want to know whether the budgets of these other agencies will be passed along with the budget of INEC or it will be considered by other committees. If we pass INEC budget and ignore those ones, we’ll still have a problem,” he said.
Deliberations, thereafter, ensued among the lawmakers. While some members of the committee suggested that the entire N189 billion be approved as requested by INEC, others said approving the entire amount will be going against the president’s request.
Majority of the members, including the chairman of the committee, moved that the committee accepts INEC requests and refer it to the committee on appropriation to determine how the funding will be made – which was the committee’s final resolution.