INEC yet to request for 6.6bn- N'Assembly

2011-01-31
THE PUNCH Newspaper

The Independent National Electoral Commission is yet to make a formal request to the National Assembly for the additional N6.6bn it needs to cover the cost of extending the ongoing voter registration by one week.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, made this known in Abuja.

Eze and Eyiboh, who spoke separately with our correspondents, said the National Assembly would not be swayed by sentiments in approving the sum.

They argued that INEC must justify how it intended to spend the N6.6bn by submitting the details of the proposal.

The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday told the Senate that the N6.6bn would cover the payment of allowances to registration officers and the acquisition of ink, papers and co-laminates.

He had said that the commission saved N4.4bn from the funds budgeted for the procurement of Direct Data Capturing machines.

The procedure for submission of appropriation is for the President to send a bill, requesting the two chambers of the National Assembly to approve the amount for the commission.

Eze said, “INEC is aware of the procedure of getting funds from the government. It has to present a formal request that must be approved by both houses of the National Assembly.

“For now, I cannot make comments whether we are disposed to approving his request because we really don’t have any request before us.”

Eyiboh, who spoke with THE PUNCH on Sunday, explained that the request for additional funding must follow “the normal process of appropriation and financial analysis.”

“We have to find the justification for the money,” he added, assuring that the House was committed to free, fair and credible poll.

But he warned that the members of the House would not be “swayed by sentiments to approve whatever the INEC chairman requests.”

“We will not just approve the N6.6bn because INEC is asking for it, it must follow due process and financial analysis,” Eyiboh said.

The President of the Senate, David Mark, in his response to Jega’s request for a week extension, said although INEC was getting a 30-day extension by virtue of the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, the National Assembly would only make money available for the period of seven days.

When contacted, Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, said the commission was trying to raise funds internally to meet the challenge posed by the one week extension.

“We will handle the issue of money administratively while the legislative process is being awaited,” he said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, serving and former senators under the aegis of Senators’ Forum, have advised the National Assembly to approach INEC’s desire for more funds with caution.

The forum’s Chairman, Senator Khairat Gwadabe, said in Abuja that Nigerians were watching carefully to see the level of success of the voter registration based on the assurance by INEC.

She said, ‘’We, the Senators’ Forum, comprising both serving and former senators feel that the reason for the request for additional fund is very scanty and that all that is required now is for the commission to concentrate on the ongoing process and perfecting the lapses noticed before asking for additional funds.

“In some constituencies, there is no public power supply and yet, no provision of generating sets was made to the registration units. This is an issue that needs to be urgently tackled to smooth the process.”

It added that as a result of the setbacks, “even where registration had taken place minimally, the role of INEC has been passed to the various communities which had been overburdened or over-taxed by making funds available to either provide generating sets, fuel, ink pads or food to the staff for the exercise.’’

The forum warned that if care was not taken, many Nigerians would be disenfranchised.

“We, therefore, suggest that the INEC administration should resolve to immediately deliver quality service to Nigerians through proper administrative provision and adequate supervision because extending the time or providing more funds now are peripheral and not holistic solution to the problem,” the group added.

 

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