The Senate has approved a supplementary budget of N87.7 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Lawmakers said this will aid the commission in organising a credible election in 2011.
The budget approved for the commission is however N2 billion less than what it requested.
The leadership of the commission had asked for N89.59 billion for the conduct of the election which is five months away. However, following a meeting with the commission’s team and the House of Representatives and Senate, the parties agreed to cut down the request.
Ayogu Eze, the Senate spokesman, said, “At the end of our meetings, we looked at the budget thoroughly and saw that there were areas in which we needed to give attention like transportation and logistics. We moved money around and put money in crucial areas and made a saving of N2 billion,” he said.
Mr Jega had explained that among other things that were previously left out, the commission needed a van for each of the 120, 000 registration points across the nation.
In his submission to the National Assembly, President Goodluck Jonathan had noted that, “the additional funds is to cover the cost of procuring electronic equipment and other ancillary expenses related to … a fresh voter registration exercise as well as the procurement of additional ballot boxes.” He added that, “we propose to fund this request by raising federal government bonds.”
The approval did not come without misgivings however as senators questioned the credibility of some allocations proposed in the budget. The budget has an allocation of N54.9 billion for ICT-voter registration system and solution, N4 billion for vehicles, and a separate N5.4 billion for the review of the voter register.
There is also an allocation of N10.8 billion for operations – personnel cost requirements and cost for registration of voters nationwide, and N222 million for hotel accommodation for political appointees which are believed to be the state INEC commissioners.
“We have expressed our reservations. In spite of the reservations, we don’t want to give INEC or anybody an excuse for not conducting a credible election next year,” the Senate President, David Mark said. “We have gone the extra mile to do this so that INEC can deliver credible election in 2011 that will meet international standards.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in his remarks, advised that the commission apply the funds in a way that will benefit the Nigerian economy and generate employment, saying they should consider patronising indigenous companies for some of the material they might need for the elections.
The approved budget has been harmonised by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is expected to reconvene today and pass the budget too. After both arms of the National Assembly have passed the budget, it will be handed over to the president to sign into law. The electoral commission, which has now become an independent institution, can then draw the funds directly from the federation account.
Mr Ekweremadu’s appeal to the commission to patronize indigenous companies may not be feasible, as Mr Jega had, at a briefing with senior journalists, ruled out this option, saying based on the shortness of time between the registration of voters and the actual elections in January, the commission cannot afford any delay or disappointment. He said his predecessor, Maurice Iwu, was disappointed at the last minute by local contractors and that the commission had lost a lot of time and could not afford such now.