The request by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for N189 billion to prosecute the 2019 general elections hit a rock Friday following disagreement among the members compelling the National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters to adjourn indefinitely.
This is coming on the heels of the disclosure by Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Nigeria now has 82 million registered voters.
Members of the National Assembly Joint Committee toed their respective political party lines in their debate on the amount that should be approved by the committee for INEC.
Whereas the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators and House of Representatives members of the committee canvassed for the approval of N143 billion requested by President Muhammadu Buhari for virement to INEC for the preparations for the polls, their counterparts in the All Progressives Congress (APC), were in support of the approval of N189 billion presented before the committee on Wednesday by the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu.
The lawmakers’ dilemma over which of the proposals should be approved was worsened by the statement of Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the Minister of Budget and National Planning that the amount whose approval was sought depended on the discretion of the NASS Committee.
Udoma, who made the submission upon request to that effect by Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP Bauchi North, the Chairman of the Committee), explained to the committee that though the N189 billion requested for by INEC was the same amount in the President’s letter, but because of funding constraints, President Buhari decided to break approval for it into two folds by seeking virement for N143 billion for INEC this year while the balance of N45.6 billion would be taken care of in the 2019 budget.
According to him, the joint committee chooses to approve the entire N189 billion, so be it, so long as it does not lead to increase in the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget size.
He said, “Mr. President will have no objection to the National Assembly approving the entire N189 billion INEC budget as long as it does not in anyway, lead to increase in the overall size of the 2018 budget.