By Chinwe Ogbuka, Assistant Director, Publicity
The House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters has expressed its readiness to support the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) in the discharge of its functions aimed at strengthening the country’s electoral process.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Aishatu Jibril Dukku gave the assurance on Monday when the INEC team led by the Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu appeared before members of the Committee to defend the 2018 budget at the National Assembly.
Hon. Dukku said that the Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters ‘is ready to welcome with open arms any issue of interest that will strengthen our electoral process and aid INEC in discharging its functions.’
According to the Chairman, elections are generally resource consuming: time, energy and of course funds and it is only through the budget that INEC can discharge its mandate of conducting free, fair and credible elections.
She noted that House of Representatives recently passed 12 Bills seeking to amend the Electoral Act 2010 and the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and advocated that those electoral reforms measures should form part of the budget of INEC.
The Chairman said, ‘It is important that the budget of INEC be made to show more widespread public accountability and transparency of the Commission – which is a significant reform in itself- with a multiplier effect on electoral reform.’
She observed that in the past where previous budgets have not been productive due to lack of effective planning by government, ‘the present administration seems to be addressing the issues with budgeting especially with regards to funding.
“It is my prayer and hope that with 2018 budget, we will continue to witness more and more progress in INEC in shaping our elections to the aspirations of all Nigerians most especially as we are approaching the 2019 general elections,” she added.
Hon. Dukku emphasised the need to approach the budget proposal from both a process and a content perspectives adding, ‘It is only by so doing that one can begin to unravel the intricacies of the entire range of issues involved and their interconnectedness.’
Earlier INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who led INEC team to defend the 2018 budget of the Commission, said that INEC was given additional N500m to the regular N45bn for the 2018 fiscal year.
He gave breakdown of the budget estimates of the 45.5bn proposed envelope to include personnel cost -N21,451,199,082.80, Overhead cost – N4,170,124,525.25 – Electoral cost – N18,951,208,000.00 and Capital cost, N927,468,391.95.
The Chairman explained how the additional budgetary provision would be expended to include salaries and Social Insurance contributions, recurrent expenses such as utilities, maintenance and others for 867 offices and residencies nationwide, including staff welfare, provision of core electoral expenses like the conduct of voter education, legal services and for renovation of office and residential buildings.
On the 2019 budget, Prof. Yakubu informed the Committee that it was not ready but assured that the budget would be submitted to the House within one month. He described an election as a legal process and as such, the budget would not be completed until ‘we know what the legal environment is like.’
The INEC Chairman explained that the delay in submission of the 2019 budget was partly to due to the ongoing amendment to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly and appealed for speedy conclusion of the process to enable the Commission finalise plans for the elections.
The Chairman also spoke about plans by the Commission to introduce E-transmission of results to avoid the delay in result collation and announcement, saying ‘we thought we will use technology to improve the process, for this we are working with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to drive the process.’
On the ongoing CVR, the Chairman explained the challenges facing the Commission which made it difficult to conduct the exercise at the polling units or ward level as requested by lawmakers. He said that the Commission needs 620,000 ad-hoc staff to cover the 120,000 polling units across the country and the sum of N1.2bn daily to pay for CVR.
Prof. Yakubu further debunked the rumour that the CVR will be terminated at the end of January, saying that the exercise will continue till 60 days to the elections.
The Chairman announced that during the second quarter of the exercise, CVR would be moved to polling unit level for Ekiti and Osun states that are having governorship elections this year as was done in Anambra state which had governorship election last November.
The INEC Boss disclosed that 4m Nigerians have had opportunity to register since the exercise started and expressed the hope that the exercise would be devolved to poling units nationwide at a point before the 2019 general elections.
During interactive session, members of the Committee raised a number of issues ranging from 2019 budget of the Commission, the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), technology to be deployed in 2019-e-transmission of result, delimitation among others.
The INEC Chairman was accompanied by National Commissioners, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu and Dr. Mustapha Lecky.
Also attendance was the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Augusta C. Ogakwu, the Special Assistant to the Chairman, Prof. Mohammed Kuna, Chief Technical Adviser to Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla some Directors and Directing staff of the Commission.