2019: NASS Rejects N189bn INEC Budget, Approves N143bn
The National Assembly joint committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday, adopted for passage the N143billion virement proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari for funding the conduct of 2019 general election. The committee also summoned the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and other top management staff of the commission to appear before it today for re-prioritisation of its action plan for the forthcoming elections within the ambit of the approved N143billion. The decision of the committee came after about two weeks of deliberations and interface with relevant stakeholders on which of the two requests to be approved. Announcing the committee’s decision after an executive session that lasted for about 30 minutes, the chairman, Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP, Bauchi North) said, “The joint committee has sat and has deliberated the position to adopt the N143 billion as presented by Mr President at this point in time. “It is also the wish of this committee that INEC represents their budget of N143bn as requested by Mr President. Therefore, INEC has an opportunity to reprioritise and this committee will be ready to receive them. This committee will be reconvening tomorrow (today) by 1pm to consider the representation of INEC budget”. Nazif went on to put his submission to voice votes from the members by asking: “Is this the true reflection of what transpired at the executive session?” And they all shouted “yes!” It would be recalled that when the INEC team led by its chairman appeared before the committee penultimate Wednesday, Yakubu had said the preference of the commission was the N189billion it budgeted for the election and not the N143billion President Buhari requested for. He said, “Though Mr President’s budgetary requests for the commission for the conduct of the 2019 general election when put together is N189billion, but INEC will be on sound financial footing if its entire budgetary proposal of N189billion is approved for it this year and not N143billion requested for in the President’s letter”. President Buhari, in the said letter, had explained to the National Assembly that out of the N189billion INEC budgeted for the conduct of the 2019 general election, N143billion should be appropriated for it this year through virement from the N578billion additional votes the federal lawmakers inserted into the budget, while the balance of N45.6billion would be captured for INEC in the 2019 budget. Many of the committee members who were present when the decision was taken yesterday are lawmakers on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose position during deliberations had always been in favour of the N143billion requested by the president. Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, the member representing Gwagwalada, kuje, kwali, Abaji federal constituency of the FCT and the deputy chairman of the joint committee, Alhaji Angulu Dobi, said there was no way the committee would have adopted the N189billion proposed by INEC. Alhaji Dobi said INEC can represent its budget during sitting today. INEC had sent a budget proposal of about N189billion to be approved for the 2019 general election in 2019, which also includes payments of allowances to people involved and fuelling of vehicles on the election period. It’s Just Committee’s Decision, Says Electoral Body But INEC yesterday dismissed decision of the National Assembly join committee, which approved N143 billion for the conduct of the 2019 general election, saying it is a mere committee’s decision that is not final. According to INEC, the approval by the committee is still subject to deliberation before it is forwarded to the president. Speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday evening, INEC’s director of Voter Education and Publicity, Barr Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, said the amount is not the final approval. The director said the commission will still have to come back to the table if its N189.8 billion request is not approved. “Committee does not forward decisions to the president. They will passed it to both houses of the National Assembly for deliberation before onward passage to the president,” Uzzi said. On whether the N143 billion approved by the join committee will be enough for INEC to conduct the 2019 general election, Uzzi said, “I don’t know. I don’t work in the National Assembly and I don’t know what the final outcome will be.” Uzzi added that when the budget is passed, INEC will come back and work for the benefit of Nigerians. “We don’t want to speculate. Once they (Senate/House of Reps) passed the budget into law, we will come back and reset it”, Uzzi added.