2019: PMB Writes Senate, Seeks N242bn For INEC, DSS, Others
President Muhammadu Buhari has sought Senate’s approval of N242.45 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to begin preparations for the 2019 general election. He said part of the funds will be given to the Department of State Service (DSS), the Police and other security agencies for the same purpose. In a letter addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki dated July 11 and personally signed by the president, Buhari requested that out of the needed figure, N164.10 billion should be provided through virement or supplementation of the 2018 Budget. He also requested that the balance of N78.34 billion, mostly related to personnel allowances, fuelling and other costs not required until election proper, be provided for in the 2019 budget. In the letter, which was read by Saraki at plenary yesterday, the president noted that the sum of N189.21 billion is allotted for INEC, N4.3 billion for Office of the Security Adviser, N12.21 billion for DSS and N3.6 billion for Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). The Nigeria Police Force got a proposal of N30.5 billion, while N2.6 billion was earmarked for Nigeria Immigration Service. Buhari requested that N164.10 billion of total funds proposed for the elections should be funded from the N578.31 billion inserted in the 2018 Budget by the National Assembly. He added that an additional N64.75 billion for reinstatement of critical project cuts in 2018 budget is to be funded from the “inserted funds’’, bringing total figure to get from the “inserted funds’’ to N228.85 billion. The letter stated that the request to deduct N228.85 billion from the N578.31 billion was in view of fiscal constraint, which would not allow for over-burdening of the 2018 budget. The president stated: “You will also recall that when I signed the 2018 Appropriation Act, I indicated the need to request the reinstatement of certain cuts made to certain critical projects provided in the original Executive Bill. “I am therefore submitting for your consideration the reinstatement of the most critical of such cuts totalling N64, 749, 216, 150. The total amount required to be provided for in the 2018 budget for the 2019 general elections and to restore the identified critical projects to the amount earlier proposed is therefore N228, 854, 008, 215. “Implementing budget of N9.12 trillion for 2018 will be extremely challenging and therefore, I do not consider it expedient to propose further increase to the 2018 Expenditure Framework to fund these very important and critical expenditure items. “Accordingly, I urge the Distinguished Senate to consider, in national interest, relocating some of the funds appropriated for new projects inserted into 2018 Budget totalling N578,319,951,904 to cover the N228, 854, 008, 215 required as indicated. “While hoping that this request will receive the expeditious consideration of the Distinguished Senate, please accept the assurances of my highest consideration,” the letter stated. …Assures International Community Of Free, Fair Polls In the same vein, President Buhari yesterday at The Hague assured the international community that the 2019 general elections in Nigeria will be free, fair and peaceful. According to him, the forthcoming general polls will be a clear contrast to the tragic incidents that characterised the 2011 general elections, necessitating preliminary investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Buhari stated this while delivering his keynote address at the Solemn Hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Referring to the tragic events in Nigeria in the aftermath of the 2011 general elections, which necessitated preliminary investigation by the Court, the president said, ‘‘Nigeria is preparing to conduct general elections in 2019. “I assure you that all hands are on deck to prevent any recurrence of such tragic incidents. We shall do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria witnesses the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019.’’ The Nigerian leader also implored the States Parties to support an ICC with jurisdiction over serious cases of corruption and illicit financial flows by state actors. ‘‘A strong and effective ICC has the potential to send a powerful message about the international community’s commitment to accountability, a message that will be heard by both victims and perpetrators. Equally, a strong and effective ICC demonstrates the international community’s commitment to the rule of law. ‘‘A strong and effective ICC can also act as a catalyst for other justice efforts, expanding the reach of accountability. These could include serious cases of corruption by state actors that severely compromise the development efforts of countries and throw citizens into greater poverty. ‘‘These could also include cases of illicit financial flows where countries are complicit and obstruct repatriation of stolen assets. As the African Union Champion on Anti-corruption, these are issues dear to my heart.’’ The president had commenced his address by thanking the judges of the Court for electing ‘‘a cherished son of Nigeria’’ as President. ‘‘Let me start by congratulating you, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, on your election as President of the International Criminal Court, and also thank the judges of the Court for electing you, a cherished son of Nigeria. Nigeria is very proud of you, Mr. President,’’ he said. Buhari is the only president invited to grace the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute. Over 25 high-level state officials, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, O-Gon Kwon, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, ICC Registrar Peter Lewis, UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares and other special guests, attended the event. …Rejects Bill Seeking Standard Fines For Courts, Tribunal Meanwhile, President Buhari yesterday informed Senate of his decision to decline assent to the bill seeking standard scale of fines for courts and tribunals. He also refused to sign three other bills into law. They are the National Child Protection and Enforcement Agency (NCPEA) bill of 2018, the corporate manslaughter bill of 2018 and agricultural credit guarantee scheme fund (amendment) bill, 2018. Buhari explained in separate letters addressed to Senate President Bukola Saraki that he rejected the courts and tribunals bill because the proposed standard scale of fines appears to be ambiguous and that the fines may conflict with existing penalties and fines under extant Nigerian laws. He explained that a fixed scale of fines might impair the ease of future review of Nigerian laws. In declining assent to NCPEA bill, Buhari noted that “all the proposed duties and responsibilities of the proposed agency are currently the statutory responsibilities of the Federal ministry of women affairs and further that, the creation of NCPEA may lead to duplication of mandates of MDAs which would results in the wastage of scarce resources.” On why he rejected the corporate manslaughter bill, Buhari said specifically, his attention is drawn to Section 1(5) of the bill which appears inconsistent with section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution and that it did not cover instances of career ending and life-threatening injuries. He also insisted that the agricultural credit guarantee scheme fund amendment bill was not signed into law because the increase in the fund size to N50billion which is a principal basis of the bill will not be effective as currently drafted due to the fact that the introductory language retains the original size of N100million. Don’t Allow 2019 Politics Divide Nigeria, IBB Tells Politicians Meanwhile, former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), has cautioned politicians not to jeopardise the vision of Nigeria’s founding fathers with politics of 2019. He also explained his support for the agenda of a Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, saying it is informed by the principle. IBB who received Turaki yesterday in his up hill home in Minna observed that the items of the agenda of the aspirant are capable of “transforming the country of our dream”. He said, “We strive in whatever we do to keep the unity of Nigeria. So, the unity of this country we have always considered as “certain issues” in the Nigerian political parlance, I’m happy that that is utmost in your mind. I hope it will apply to each and everyone of you and the people. “This is a narrative that must be sank into the ears minds of the ordinary people. Unless we are united we can’t be able to achieve a lot. So, I am particularly impressed about your concept of unity”. IBB further told Turaki that his ideas are such that even the founding fathers of Nigeria in the course of governance had already thought about. He continued: “I am also happy that as far as you are concerned the concept of presidential system of government is also a certain issue in the Nigeria project and I want to commend you for all of that. It means that you are narrowing the areas of conflict so that we will be able to live together as a people with a common purpose. “Chief Awolowo talked about a federal Nigeria. The same thing with Sardauna of Sokoto, the same thing with Zik, the same thing with Tafawa Balewa; they all talked about federalism. “So, we have all accepted that federal system of government is what we are going to adopt in this country. I endorse your idea about how Nigeria should be and I want to commend you and your teams for making sure that what our forefathers, makers of Nigeria, had in mind is what you want to realise.” The PDP presidential aspirant had earlier solicited the support of the former military president for the realisation of his 2019 presidential ambition, saying he has all that is needed to improve the country. Also while addressing stakeholders at the PDP secretariat, Turaki decried the level of insecurity in the country, lamenting that 22 out of the 36 states in the country were under one form of insecurity or the other. Adding “Insecurity is now spreading to Sokoto, Niger and Kebbi. In fact, not less than 22 states in the country are under one form of insecurity or the other”, he said.