The Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Electoral Matters have adopted N143bn as the workable budget for the 2019 polls, and rejected the earlier version of N189.2bn, a combination of the N143bn and another N45.6bn proposed to be vired from the 2019 budget.
The committee reached this resolution on Monday after over a week of deliberation on the matter.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in his letter to the Senate last month, requested that N189.2 billion be released to INEC, demanding that N143.5 billion be released this year and N45.6 billion be released in 2019.
However, the chairman of the electoral commission, Mahmood Yakubu, in his presentation, sought to have the entire N189.2 billion.
The commission’s request caused members of the committee to again deliberate on whether to grant INEC’s request or that of the president.
The committee had failed to harmonise the divergent positions of the Senate and the House of Representatives last week, necessitating an adjournment for more consultations to be made.
While some members of the panel suggested that the entire N189 billion be approved as requested by INEC, others were of the opinion that approving the entire amount will be going against the president’s request.
Majority of the members including the chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, had on August 17, moved that the committee accept INEC requests and refer it to the committee on appropriation to determine how the funding will be made.
Today however, the committee chairman announced that in line with the President’s request, N143 billion will be approved for INEC, after an executive session which lasted for about 40 minutes.
According to him, “The joint committee sat and has come up with the resolution to adopt the N143 billion presented by Mr. President.
“It is also the wish of this committee that INEC then present their budget of N143 billion as requested by Mr. President.
“Therefore, INEC has an opportunity to prioritise and this committee is ready to receive them tomorrow. This committee will be reconvening tomorrow by 1pm so that we can consider the presentation by INEC,” he said.
He however, did not say when the other N45 billion will be approved for the electoral commission.
Newsworth recalls that the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, had explained that the President requested the approval of N143 billion because he did not want an increase in the overall size of the 2018 budget.
According to him, if the joint committee wish to approve the entire N189billion without resulting into increase in the N9.12trillion 2018 budget size, so be it and would be appreciated by the executive.
“Mr President will have no objection to the national assembly approving the entire N189billion INEC budget as long as it does not in anyway, lead to increase in the overall size of the 2018 budget.
“If this is to be done, the N45.6billion the president in his letter proposed to be provided for in the 2019 budget, would also have to be vired along with the N143billion from the N578billion fund appropriated for in the 2018 budget by the national assembly for the additional 1,403 projects included in the budget,” Udoma had told the committee.