REVELED! See why FG is yet to approve N75bn INEC budget Six weeks to election (Must Read)

Six weeks to this year’s general elections, the
Federal Government has yet to appropriate the
remaining N75bn out of the N120bn budgeted
for the conduct of the poll by the Independent
National Electoral Commission.
This, according to social commentators, lawyers,
and other concerned stakeholders is already
hampering the INEC’s preparations for the much
awaited elections.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that INEC had estimated
that it would need N120bn to prepare for the
elections, but only N45bn was appropriated by
the Budget Office of the Federation in 2014
budget, leaving a shortfall of N75bn.
The House of Representatives had recently raised
concerns over the general elections, saying that
adequate funding and security would determine
the credibility of the polls.
The House Committee on Electoral Matters said it
had resolved to summon the Chairman of INEC,
Prof. Attahiru Jega, to brief the lawmakers on the
preparedness of the commission to conduct the
poll.
Chairman of the committee, Mr. Jerry Manwe, in
an exclusive interview with one of our
correspondents, said while Nigerians expected
INEC to conduct credible polls, they were not
asking questions about the funding available to
the commission and the “disturbing insecurity
situation in some parts of the country.”
Manwe said, “We expect a credible, free and fair
polls, but this will again depend on funding of
INEC and security.
“My committee will summon Jega to brief us on
the INEC’s preparation for the elections. Jega has
to come and meet with the committee because
there are sensitive issues we have to look at, one
of them is insecurity.
“Funding and security play a role in the credibility
of any election. So, we will have to look at all
these with the INEC chairman.”
In June, the House had raised the alarm over
alleged shortfall in funding of INEC, especially as
regards the general elections.
After going through the proposals for the 2014
budget, the committee said it found out that of
the N120bn the commission proposed for the
general elections, the Budget Office of the
Federation only made a provision for N45bn.
The committee noted at the time that the
approved N45bn left a balance of about N75bn.
“Of the N120bn that INEC proposed, only N45bn
was given to the commission by government. It
means that the commission is short of a huge
difference of N75bn. As the committee on
electoral matters, our work is to alert the relevant
authorities on our findings and the implications
for the 2015 elections,” the committee had
warned in June.
Manwe had expressed doubts that the situation
would have improved remarkably.
The International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based
advocacy organisation, in a report titled:
“Nigeria’s dangerous 2015 elections: Limiting the
Violence” released on November 21, 2014, also
claimed that dwindling allocations to INEC was
already hampering its preparations towards the
2015 elections.
According to ICG, one of INEC greatest challenges
arises from funding gaps.
It said, “In 2011, the commission was given
N85bn (then approximately $515m) from a
special fund that enabled it to conduct that
year’s elections successfully.
“However, in 2012, its allocation dropped to
N35bn (some $225m) and then dropped further
to N32bn (about $200m) in 2013. This year
(2014), the commission had estimated it would
need N93bn ($560m) to prepare for the 2015
elections, but it was appropriated only N45bn
($272m). The reduced funding and the
inconsistent manner in which it is disbursed have
hampered some of the commission’s
preparations.”
The ICG noted that inadequate funding had
affected the storage of voters’ data.
Explaining difficulties with equipment for
updating the voter register, INEC Chairman, Jega,
had said, “The major challenge was storage. For
the last three years, every time we prepared our
budget, we requested funding to create a facility
in order to appropriately store our equipment.
Regrettably, we never had this funding
requirement met, and the way the equipment
was stored really left much to be desired.
The ICG, in the report, gave this as one of the
reasons INEC had not been able to produce a
“clean” voter register few months to the
elections.
The spokesperson for the INEC Chairman, Mr.
Kayode Idowu, in an interview with Saturday
PUNCH, said, “On the issue of funding, the
commission is engaging the authorities and the
response is encouraging; we must state that
clearly. We are expecting an invitation from the
National Assembly to appear before it as regards
this issue.
“The funding of an election is not usually in the
election year. Like I said, we are meeting with the
authorities and releases are being made. There is
no shortfall of funding anywhere. We don’t know
where the figures being peddled come from and
how it is being calculated.”
On financial constraint being the reason for the
poor distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards,
Idowu said, “Clearly and categorically, it is not
true. We didn’t distribute the cards at the same
time.
“As regards the issue of timing, it is a function of
the budget. We have certain number of days at
the polling unit level. It does not make economic
sense to spend endless days at the polling units.
“All over the country, we are using about
350,000 people, paying them about N2bn per
day. How can that be budgeted for? We don’t
have the luxury of shedding off that kind of
money for many days because we also have to
look at the big picture.
“Many people are looking at the microscopic
picture. For how long can we pay N2bn per day?
That is why we said we would spend three days
for the exercise. It is good to have a model that
will save costs. That is why we said we are
distributing the cards at the local government
offices.
“We cannot keep these workers at the polling
units for days because we cannot keep spending
billions of naira every day. It simply cannot be
budgeted for, it doesn’t make sense.
“We do not see any possibility that the election
would not hold because of lack of funding. We
should be optimistic that the elections would
come and go without any hitches. The economic
condition will not affect the election process,
since the will is there.”
A Lagos-based economist, Mr. Babatunde
Abrahams, said that inadequate funding could
affect the integrity of the elections.
He said that if there are no funds to carry out the
electioneering process in details, there would be
certain flops that would be created which
electoral fraudsters could exploit to rig the
elections.
He also said that if the Federal Government and
INEC were to be honest, the global slump in oil
price would affect the funding of the upcoming
elections.
He said, “When INEC presented its budget for the
elections, the oil price had not fallen. They had
based their budget on the oil price benchmark for
the year, the only commodity on which the
country survives.
“Now by my calculation, if the oil price has
slumped and some of the countries that used to
buy from us are not buying again either because
they are finding alternatives to oil or have
discovered the commodity in their own lands,
then how would it not affect the funding that
accrues to INEC?
“Yes, the commission may claim that they are
receiving support from government to avoid
hitches, but the truth is there is going to be some
form of problem or the other except we want to
be economical with the truth.”
Abrahams added that if the commission were
receiving any financial support from the Federal
Government at the moment, it meant that the
latter was dipping its hands into funds meant for
other sectors of the economy.
“Ultimately, it would require sacrifices here and
there to make the next elections feasible from the
economic point of view,” he said.
A social commentator and lawyer, Mr. Rasheed
Bamisile, said it was embarrassing that the
budget was released by the Federal Government
in piece meal.
He said releasing the money in tranches was an
indication that the Federal Government was not
prepared for the smooth conduct of the much
expected elections, especially if approval of the
INEC budget was total.
Bamisile said, “Before the sum of the N45bn
initially given to the INEC was released, there
must have been approval by the ministry of
finance or any other relevant government
agency. So, withholding part of the money
budgeted for the execution of the elections may
be interpreted to mean that government is
already putting a spanner in the wheel of the
electoral process.”
According to him, the development may mar the
credibility of the elections as some of the electoral
officials may be lured or compromised by corrupt
politicians, if their emoluments are not promptly
paid by the INEC.
Bamisile said, “The general elections are less than
two months away and if the remaining N75bn is
not released to the INEC in the first week of
January for the commission to address some likely
challenges in terms of logistics, it means the
commission will have to use one vehicle to convey
election materials to about four or five local
government areas and if this is the case, there is
possibility that the credibility of election may be
marred.
“The election may not be rigged, but if the
process is underfunded, its credibility can still be
doubted. The development can also affect the
credibility of the INEC Chairman.”
Former Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the
Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani, said
the slashing of the N120bn proposed by the INEC
to N45bn in addition to the non-release of the
fund justified the fear that there might not be
free and fair election in 2015.
He said, “If that is true then my fear has been
justified that INEC will not conduct free and fair
election in 2015. If a budget proposal of N120bn
was made and only about N45bn was
appropriated; even up till now the money has not
been released.
“Then it means they are bent on ensuring that
the election is not credible or that it does not
hold. An alarm should be raised about the danger
ahead.”
He added that slump in oil price should never be
a basis for non-release of the fund.
He said, “Nigeria has been experiencing oil boom
for many years, and we experience slump in oil
price just for three months and you started
imposing austerity measures on key sectors that
do not affect the budget. That is baseless.
Meanwhile, the austerity measures they are
introducing have not reflected in the budget of
the presidency.”
Another Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Malachy
Ugwummadu, said the non-release of the
required fund to INEC would only compound the
threat already posed by insecurity in the North-
East to the credible conduct of the general
elections.
The activist said, “The security challenges in
North-East especially in three states still pose
threat to the constitutional requirement that
should be attained by a person that can be validly
declared as winner of the presidential election.
“That alone should be enough challenge. The
budget is a law, it is meant to be implemented.
INEC must not be allowed to reel under
underfunding. If INEC is not properly funded,
there will be excuse for them to conduct elections
that are not free and fair.”

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