Senators, Reps’ Meeting Ends In Deadlock Over N189b INEC Budget

House of Representatives
House of Representatives

The meeting between Senators and members of the House of Representatives over budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Thursday ended in a deadlock.

The electoral commission is seeking budgetary approval of N189billion to conduct the 2019 general elections.

The meeting came to a stalemate as the lawmakers could not agree on the figures presented to both chambers of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and Professor Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Against this backdrop, the lawmakers have summoned the INEC boss to appear before the joint committed of the Senate and House of Representatives today to throw more light on the grey areas that had been discovered in the budget proposal.

While President Muhammadu Buhari requested for N143 billion for the commission, Yakubu’s was N189 billion.

According to the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Nazif, the joint committee will make its position known in a statement at the end of today’s meeting.

Addressing journalists Thursday in Abuja after the meeting which started 3.30pm and ended 4.30 pm, chairman of the committee Senator Suleiman Nazif, Bauchi North, assured Nigerians that as lawmakers, they would ensure that INEC conduct credible, free and fair elections in 2019.

He said: “As we are all aware, Wednesday, we invited the chairman of INEC who was in the National Assembly to address the House of Representatives as well as the Senate. And today, our duty and responsibility was to try to harmonise what transpired between both houses and ensure that we cross the t’s and dot the i’s.

“The whole meeting was called consequent upon the letter of Mr President requesting for supplementary and virement for the general elections of 2019.

“We have done what we needed to have done. And we have realised that there are a little bit of differences. In view of that, it is the opinion of members of this joint committee that we invite the chairman of INEC for further clarifications Thursday at11am.

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“From there, this committee will make a press statement and we will inform Nigerians of our position. I want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that this joint committee is committed to ensuring credible, free and fair elections for 2019.”

After the briefing by Nazif, the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters and Political Parties Affairs, Aishatu Dukku, representing Dukku/ Nafada Federal constituency, said she agreed with what Nazif said.

But the disparity led to a stalemate when the committees at a joint sitting wanted to approve the  budget estimates, as some of the members argued that approval should be solely based on request made by the President, while others argued for N189billion approval INEC sought.

Specifically, two members of the committee, Senators Mohammed Hassan ( PDP Yobe South) and Ovie Omo- Agege ( APC Delta Central) shouted at each other on which of the proposals to be approved .

While Mohammed Hassan urged the committee to limit approval of the budgetary request to N143 billion stated in the President’s letter for this year, Omo- Agege insisted that the entire N189 billion INEC budget should be approved once and for all, after which the lawmakers went into a closed door session.

It was discovered that efforts made by members of the joint committee to arrive at which of the proposals to approve during a closed door session which lasted for an hour failed.

Consequently, they resolved to summon the INEC boss for more clarifications on N189 billion budget proposal.