By Nathaniel Gana
16th August, 2018
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu on 15th August, defended the Commission’s 2019 Election Budget in separate meetings with the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Matters, headed by Mrs. Aishatu Dukku and the Senate Committee of INEC, led by Senator Suleiman Nazif at the National Assembly.
Leading a team of National Commissioners and Directors, Prof. Yakubu noted that it was the first time that INEC was appearing before Committees of the National Assembly to defend its election budget.
He said: “in the past, the electoral commission would make submissions to the executive and means would be found to fund the budget. But here we are before the people’s representatives, to present and defend, line by line, what the commission proposes to spend on the 2019 general elections.”
He explained that the N189 billion budget has been broken down into four components. The first one, which is the Election Operational Cost and estimated at N134.4 billion, “is the source from which we fund sensitive and non sensitive materials, allowances, logistics, preparation of the registration area centres, voters’ registration including the printing of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), the voter register for the election as well as undertake Voter Education and Publicity”.
The second component, he averred, is the Election Technology Cost, estimated at N27.5 billion. He said: “ It is ICT-related and includes procurement, upgrading and replacement of equipment, stress test and inventory of our systems generally”.
The third component, he further explained, is the Election Administrative Cost, totaling N22.6 billion. This amount, he said, would be paid for insurance cover for the Commission’s properties and personnel, including the ad-hoc staff. It will also cover the procurement of stationeries and other items, construction and renovation of the Commission’s offices and the purchase of vehicles and generators.
The last component, he said, is the N4 billion for contingencies. He pointed out that this amounted to only 2.5 percent of the total budget of the election, and was arrived at after putting “the pressures on resources” into consideration.
Justifying the proposed budget figures, Prof. Yakubu observed that there had been a 17.1 percent increase in the number of registered voters since the last general elections.
His words: “as at the 11th of August, the Commission had registered 12.1 million new voters. If you add this to the almost 70 million on the register before the 2015 general elections, we have well over 80 million registered voters as we speak.”
Prof. Yakubu affirmed that the Commission would conduct elections into more constituencies in 2019 than the 2015 general election, with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections coinciding with the general elections in 2019.
He said for the next general elections, “we are conducting elections into 1 Presidential Constituency, 109 Senatorial, 360 Federal and 991 State Constituencies, 29 State governorship elections, and for the first time, the general election is coinciding with the Area Council Elections in the Federal Capital Territory. So, we are going to conduct 68 elections in the FCT, in addition to elections in other constituencies”.
The INEC Chairman also attributed the figures in the election budget to the increased number of political parties. He said the process of producing ballot papers for 91 political parties, as well as monitoring their conventions, congresses and primaries would cost more.
He said: “We had a little over 40 political parties in 2015. But as at today, we have over 91 political parties in Nigeria and we are still considering applications from 140 associations for registration. If half of the political parties field candidates, we are going to process a total of 70,809 nomination forms for the general election. If all the 91 political parties present candidates for all the constituencies, we will process over 144,000 applications for the election. So, it is really a huge task for the Commission”.
Other reasons adduced by the INEC Chairman for the spike in the budget were: the cost of logistics, which includes the increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) needed to fuel all the Commission’s vehicles; increase in the exchange rate compared to the situation in 2015 and the expanded number of voting points, due to increased number of registered voters.
Responding, Chairmen of both Committees assured that the National Assembly would remain focused and continue to work for the country’s interest.