The Senate has approved N234.5 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the 2019 general election.
The Senate, however, did not approve the budget for security agencies as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.
It added N45.5 billion to the the initial N189 billion approved by the Senate Committee on INEC.
This brings the total amount approved for the electoral commission to N234,507,272,393.
The approval was made after the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, presented a report following his committee’s consideration of Mr Buhari’s letter.
The president had written the Senate on Wednesday, requesting that the National Assembly approve N242 billion (242,445,322,600) as requested by INEC and security agencies for the 2019 elections.
He said the entire sum of N242 billion be taken from other subheads in the 2018 Appropriation Act.
His recent letter differed from the letter he wrote to the Senate in July where he asked that of the total sum, N164 billion (N164,104,792,065) will be drawn from the 2018 budget while N78 billion (N78,314,530,535) will form part of the 2019 budget of these agencies.
Presenting the report, Mr Goje said the decision to approve the INEC budget was informed by the urgent need for funds to begin preparations for the polls.
Mr Goje recommended that the Senate approve N143,312,256,955 which was initially recommended by the INEC committee and the additional N45,965,015,438 be approved as part of the virement of the 2018 budget.
He also recommended that for source of fund, “N189,007,272,393 requested for the funding of the 2019 general elections should be vired from both Recurrent and Capital components of Special Intervention Programme captured in the Service Wide Votes of the 2018 Appropriation Acts as shown below and be added to the sum of 45.5 billion provided for INEC in the Statutory Transfers. This will bring the total budget if INEC in the 2018 budget to N234,507,272,393.”
After his presentation, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, raised concerns about the president’s letter.
He suggested that the Senate step down the committee’s recommendations and make a final approval after the committee meet with officers of the security agencies and consider their own budget proposal.
His suggestion was, however, ignored as lawmakers argued that INEC’s request be approved as the commission’s request has a high level of urgency.
Among the contributors was Barau Jibril (APC, Kano) who strongly sought the approval of INEC’s electoral budget.
“INEC’s budget has a high level of urgency. Let’s approve it and wait for security agencies to come and we will hear from them and then approve theirs.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, thereafter, put the recommendations into vote and the lawmakers unanimously agreed to approve INEC’s budget.
Members of the Appropriation Committee later left the chamber “to meet with representatives of some security agencies” to deliberate on their budget.