The National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has set up a six-member sub-committee to review INEC’s new budget.
The Chairman of the Committee, Suleiman Nazif, disclosed this on Tuesday while addressing journalists after a closed-door meeting which lasted for over two and half hours.
The panel had on Monday, approved N143 billion for the electoral commission for the 2019 general election as requested by President Muhammadu Buhari in July.
The committee reached this resolution after over a week of deliberation on the matter.
The committee also asked INEC to “prioritise” and present another budget ‘within’ the N143 billion today.
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 this year and N45.6 billion be released in 2019.
However, the Chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, in his presentation, demanded the entire sum.
The commission’s request had caused members of the committee to again deliberate on whether to grant INEC’s request or that of the President.
Speaking with journalists, Mr Nazif confirmed that INEC complied with the panel’s directive to present a budget of N143 billion.
“INEC complied with our statement. They have the complete breakdown of the N143 billion. We have to go through it, then we call them for defence.
“A sub-committee has been set up to look into all the details. We are to reconvene again tomorrow at 4 pm. We do not have a report now until tomorrow when we (will) have details by the sub-committee,” he said.
Another member of the committee, Mao Ohabunwa, also confirmed INEC’s new report. He explained that summoning the electoral commission for a defence depends on the committee’s findings after deliberations.
“INEC was mandated to bring the breakdown based on the N143 billion. They have brought it and we set up an ad-hoc committee to look at it with what they brought earlier and if there are areas of discrepancies, we would invite them to defend but we have adjourned to allow the sub-committee to holistically look at the breakdown so that we would reconvene at 4 pm.
“When we look at it, the defence is depending on what we discover; if there are areas we are not in agreement or we need further explanation, we would invite them to clarify,” he said.
When asked if INEC has agreed to work with just the N143 billion, he said ”it is not an issue of agreement or not agreement”.
“A budget is sent by the president and that is what we are working with. We are working as a parliament based on the submission of the President. If they need any other thing, they should still go through the President.”
Senate spokesperson and member of the committee, Sabi Abdullahi, denied allegations that the National Assembly was deliberately delaying the passage of the budget.
Rather, he said, they are meeting daily to fast-track its passage.
“We have to scrutinise through what they have brought. To fast-track that, we have a small sub-committee of the committee.
“Let me say it very unequivocally, that is farther from the truth. That cannot be true. All of us are politicians, we are all contesting and we are interested parties as far as the electioneering process is concerned. Those who are thinking that what is happening is another delay, I think they are being mischievous.
“We wouldn’t have cut down (short) our recess to be doing things in the manner that people are describing. If anything, we believe that Mr President has submitted a very unambiguous letter, and we are totally committed to supporting Mr President as far as 2019 elections are concerned,” he said.
The INEC boss had earlier given several reasons for the increase in the budget as against 2015.
He listed increase in number of political parties, voters population and registered voters; high cost of logistics; exchange rates; and an increase in the number of constituencies as reasons for the higher budget.
The proposed budget has an increase of N62 billion compared to the 2015 election budget.