The Movement for Transparent Elections (MTE), a Civil Society Organisation(CSO) has warned that further delay in release of the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) portends great danger to Nigeria’s democracy.
MTE’s Convener, Abiodun Ajijola, in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, regretted that less than 100 days to the 2019 Nigerian General Elections, INEC had yet to be funded for the elections.
He recalled that the National Assembly received a letter dated July 11 for virement and supplementary budget to fund the 2019 General Elections.
Ajijola said that an initial approval to that was made after three months on Oct. 12 for INEC component while the security component was approved on the Oct. 16.
He said that the National Assembly however approved that the funds should be vired from the funds allocated to the Social Investment Programme(SIP) of the Federal Government which had been budgeted in the 2018 Appropriation Act.
“On Nov. 6, four months after the original request for virement and supplementary budget was made, the National Assembly rescinded its decision on funding the elections entirely from the SIP of the Federal Government but rather sourcing 50 per cent from existing MDAs budgets and the other 50 per cent from the SIP while also opening an investigation into the social intervention scheme of the Federal Government.
“ It should also be remembered that the National Assembly made cuts amounting to 347 billion Naira in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion in the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
“The current step by the National Assembly to share the funding for the elections between 30 MDAs and the SIP without making any cut on the increased funding of constituency projects is likely to create an impasse which could have ordinarily been avoided if greater effort was made to balance the source of the funding.
“Nigerians need to remember that the National Assembly has already cut the budget of Federal Government projects by N347 billion and cutting the already scarce allocation to MDAs by another N121,122,525,050 would clearly create performance problems for these MDAs especially since they have already budgeted for these activities.
“The National Assembly needs to make some concessions in the funding sources proposed to include part of its own 587 billion added to the 2018 budget proposal. The NASS should meet the federal government at least half way at a minimum if it truly is committed to supporting free, fair and credible elections in 2019.’’
The convener said that the National Assembly sent a version of the Electoral Act amendment Bill 2018 to the President for accent (3rd version) which had only 15 clauses in it devoid particularly of the section that related to smart card readers.
Ajijola said that the much talked about 4th version of the Electoral Act had yet to be transmitted to the president as of Nov. 12, adding that there were reports that there were still differences between the House and Senate versions- just three months to the general elections.
He called on well meaning Nigerians to let their voices be heard because it was clear that there was an attempt to frustrate Nigeria’s 2019 general elections which would be a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
“Nigerians will not allow this to happen and it is expected that the National Assembly source the funding for the 2019 general elections urgently from mutually agreeable sources with the executive to ensure smooth conduct of the elections next year.
“The National Assembly members should remember that they are representatives of the Nigerian people and that the represented and not the representatives will have the final say.
“MTE expects that the entire budget for the 2019 General Elections should be released to INEC on or before Friday Nov. 16 -exactly 3 months to the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.
“ MTE calls on the National Assembly lead by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara as well as the Presidency lead by President Muhammadu Buhari to work assiduously concertedly to ensure that INEC was funded on time for the task ahead,’’ he said.