Amidst the urgency to quickly approve funds for the 2019 election, the Senate and the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved what appeared different sums for the electoral commission, INEC, and security agencies.
While the House of Representatives approved a total of N831 billion (N831,259,220,255.00) for INEC and five security agencies, the Senate approved N242 billion (N242,245,050,100) for INEC and the five security offices.
Parliamentary reporters covering both chambers scrambled on Tuesday to compare notes and decipher the huge almost N600 billion difference in what was approved by the two law making arms.
However, a careful review of what was passed by both chambers show that the major difference was in the technicalities and mode of presentation of the approved budgets by the two law making arms.
According to the resolution by the House, the total N831 billion is to taken from other subheads in the already passed 2018 budget – a term known as virement. However, for the Senate, only the approved N242 billion should be taken from other subheads.
The House in its resolution said it “Approve(d) the Virement of the Sum of Eight Hundred and Thirty-One Billion, Two Hundred and Fifty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand, and Two Hundred and Fifty-Five Naira (N831,259,220,255.00) only to fund the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Security Agencies towards the preparation for the 2019 General Elections.”
In its resolution, the Senate only approved that N242 billion be taken from other sub-heads of the 2018 budget.
Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate tried to distinguish the actual amount already budgeted for INEC and the five security agencies in the 2018 budget from the money to be taken from other subheads in the 2018 budget.
However, a summation of the figures approved for virement by the Senate and that already contained in the 2018 budget gives the same total sum approved for virement by the House of Representatives.
Presenting his report on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje recommended that the N242 billion be approved as virement for the 2019 general elections operations for INEC and five security agencies.
The total amount approved by the Senate as virement for each of the agencies will be added to the 2018 appropriation (initial budget allocated to them in the 2018 budget), he said.
He also said “the fund will be sourced from both Recurrent and Capital components of Special Intervention Programme captured in the Service Wide Votes of the 2018 Appropriation Act.”
The relevant committees of the two chambers will now meet to resolve the technicalities in the approved budget for INEC and the five agencies for the 2019 election. The finally approved sum will then be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.