By Olayinka Ajayi
As Nigerians prepare to go to poll come 2019, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmud Yakubu, has stated reasons budget for the conduct of 2019 general elections is N69 billion higher than that of 2015 thereby going to be the most expensive in Nigeria’s history.
Speaking in an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, the INEC boss said the commission needs N189 billion for the conduct of the elections, an amount he said is 58 percent increase on 2015 elections that cost N120bn.
The INEC chairman added that the increase was necessitated by a number of factors, including additional political parties, increased number of registered voters, among others.
According to him: “Compared to N120bn that the 2015 elections cost, we’re now proposing N189.2bn.
“For 2015, we had 70 million voters. But now we have 82m registered voters. This will increase because of the additional period for registration that we added. So, there is addition of about 17.1 per cent compared to 2015.
“Second, the number of political parties then was 40, but we now have 91. The size of the ballot papers would increase and the quality and colour won’t be the same. That means additional cost.
“As part of the cost, we have to monitor political parties’ congresses, primaries and conventions, which also mean additional funding.
“Processing nominations from political parties is another thing. We have to process about 70,889 nominations for the elections if all parties nominate candidates.
“This time around, the logistics is higher because pump price of petrol is higher now. Some of the components are in US Dollars, so it would have an impact going by the current exchange rate compared to the 2015 elections.
“The FCT area councils’ elections would be coming at about the same time with the general elections, so that means additional cost because we need more hands for the elections and ballot papers among others,” the INEC chairman said.
Giving the breakdown of how the N189.2bn would be spent, Prof Yakubu said N134.4bn would be for election operations cost; N27.5bn for election technological cost; N22.6bn for election administrative cost and N4.6bn for contingency/miscellaneous.
In the same vein, Sen Isa Hamma Misau (PDP, Bauchi) demanded to know why the commission’s elections budget has been on the rise over the years?
Responding, Prof Yakubu said, “Much of the cost we pay for elections is because of lack of trust. Why must we print ballot papers to currency quality and give to the CBN to keep? It’s all because of lack of trust.
Sen Mohammed Hassan (APC, Yobe) expressed concern that while President Muhammadu Buhari in his letter of request for the election budget said the sum of N143.512bn should be approved for INEC under this year’s budget and another N45.7bn under the 2019 budget, the electoral umpire was demanding for the total amount at once.
But the INEC chairman said, “I’m not sure there’s a conflict. In terms of the totality of figure, I don’t think there’s any conflict because if you add everything together, it will give you the N189bn.
“Our preference is for the sum of N189bn to be appropriated. But as to the nitty-gritty, that is between the National Assembly and the Executive,” he said.
Chairman of the committee, Suleiman Nazif demanded to know why there is a separate N5.1bn for continuous voter registration (CVR) in the elections budget when an amount was earlier approved for the commission for the same purpose under the regular budget.
Prof Yakubu said because CVR is done almost on daily basis all year round, the amount approved for it in the 2018 budget was grossly inadequate and that due to the need to register more eligible voters ahead of elections, there was need for additional fund.
N6bn to feed police on election duties
At the House of Representatives, the sum of N6bn to feed policemen on electoral duty was contested by the lawmakers.
Wole Oke (PDP, Osun), said, “It is important that we look into the estimates and reconvene later to discuss.”
Rima Shawulu (PDP, Taraba) and Timothy Golu (PDP, Plateau) drew attention to the repetition of most of the items in the budget, especially with the expenditure for the feeding of security personnel as well as the provision for hiring of vehicles for security personnel.
In his response, Prof Yakubu said the feeding of security officials on election duty is crucial since there is similar provision for ad hoc staff.
Added that the commission does not envisage any postponement of the 2019 general elections.