…Says rejection of Electoral Act Amendment Bill’ll not hamper its work
…Suspends Ekiti election indefinitely
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, told the National Assembly that it would require N305billion as projected expenditure for the polls.
Chairman, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, when he appeared before the Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North) led Senate Committee on Appropriations, said N100 billion out of the N305 billion earmarked for the commission had already been released to the commission leaving a balance of N205 billion.
Meanwhile, the Senate said it would consider and pass the 2022 Appropriation Bill, today.
Senator Jibrin who spoke with journalists yesterday after the budget session with INEC, said with the 2022 budget proposal of INEC now captured, the panel would lay the report on 2022 Appropriation Bill today (Tuesday) and “It will be considered and passed same day by the Senate.”
This came as INEC suspended indefinitely, the Ekiti East by- election after four unsuccessful attempts, lamenting that in the last attempt, voters were killed on the queue as well as security operatives and electoral officers at polling units.
Recall that the Senate Committee on Appropriations had in view of the 2023 general elections, invited the INEC Chairman to table before it, projected expenditure for the election for the purpose of capturing it in the 2022 budget billed for passage by both chambers of the National Assembly, today.
Yakubu, who explained that the N305 billion was different from N40 billion yearly budget of the electoral body said though N100 billion had been given to the commission out of the total projected expenses, it would not be enough for adequate preparation.
On the controversial Electoral Act Amendment Bill transmitted to the President by the National Assembly, Yakubu said the work of the commission would not be hampered in any way by the now rejected Bill as all its operations were anchored on the Electoral Act 2010.
He noted that the commission has eight outstanding by-elections to be conducted before the 2023 general elections, but “INEC will never reward bad behaviour. The election can only be repeated in June 2022 during the gubernatorial election.”
Earlier, Yakubu who attributed his inability to defend the budget proposal of the agency last week to his participation in an international assignment, said: “I was out of the country, we had a network of chairmen of Electoral Commissions in West Africa and we hold our general assembly once in every two years. So, I could not be here personally.
“We thank the committee and by extension the Senate for all the proactive measures taken, including some of the provisions in the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill awaiting assent, particularly Section 3 of the Bill, which you have strengthened on INEC funds to grant better financial autonomy for the commission. What is the independence of INEC if there is no financial independence?
“I also want to thank you for the provision in the bill for ensuring that funds are released to the commission at least one year to the election. This is really very useful.
“We made a submission for the sum of N305billion for the 2023 general elections. It is a very comprehensive 22-page document with 260 budget lines.
“In submitting the executive proposal to the National Assembly, the sum of N140 billion was made available to INEC as a one line item in the budget and as usual, we broke it down and submitted same to the committee that oversights INEC in both the House and the Senate.
“The N140 billion was broken into two, we take it that N40 billion is our regular budget as an agency of government and N100 billion was the first tranche of the 2022 budget and we have gone ahead to make provisions accordingly.
“For the N40 billion annual budget, it include the elections that we are supposed to conduct particularly off-season elections. It may interest the committee to know that we have eight by-elections pending made up of three Federal Constituencies and five state constituencies.
“In fact, the last vacancy occurred only last Wednesday following the death of a member that represented Jiwa West State Constituency in Kaduna State. We have other by-elections pending. We hope that these elections will hold as soon as we resume in the new year.
“We have the FCT Area Council election holding on February 12, 2022. We have released timetable for Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
“Ekiti governorship election is holding in June but in about two weeks, party primaries for Ekiti will commence beginning from January 1 to 29, 2022, and the primaries for Osun State will be in February.
“Elections are held all year round, there is no longer election season in Nigeria. Elections are held all year round as the need arises for these elections.
“But for the 2023 general election, we made a submission on the basis of the N100 billion as one line item, N40 billion regular budget and the 2022 Appropriation Bill, and then there is the outstanding N205 billion.
“What we have done is to look at the activities that we have to conduct before the general elections. There are activities that must be concluded.”