The Joint Committee on INEC is dilemma over approval for the N189billion budget proposal made by the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) for conduct of the 2019 general elections by the National Assembly and N143 billion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Same subject matter.
Buhari had requested for the virement of N143 billion from 2018 budget for the INEC and informed the lawmakers that remaining N46 billion for the elections will come with 2019 budget.
The development forced the lawmakers over which budget to approve for INEC divided the lawmakers across party line as the PDP lawmakers insisted on N143 billion requested by President Buhari for passage not the N189 billion presented by INEC boss.
But , Senators of All Progressives Congress ( APC) argued for approval of the entire sum of N189billion for the INEC at once .
However, the lawmakers were more disturbed when the Minister of Budget and National Planing Udoma Udo Udoma told the lawmakers to use their discretion on which budget to approve for the INEC.
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 over all 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 N143bn from the N578bn fund appropriated for in the 2018 budget by the National Assembly for the additional 1,403 projects included in the budget”, he said .
Reacting to Minister’s submission , Chairman of the Committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif explained to the committee that though the N189 billion requested for by INEC was the same amount the President wrote in the letter.
However, because of funding constraints, President Buhari decided to break approval for it into two folds.
First, 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.
During the debate on the Approval, APC lawmakers like Senators Ibrahim Kurfi , Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi , Ovie Omo – Agege ( Delta Central) , Hon Aisha Dukku insisted that the entire sum of N189billion should be approved by the Committee.
While lawmakers from PDP like Senator Mohammed Hassan , Senator Isa Misau , Hon Wole Oke ( PDP Osun), Hon Ogbeideihama Omorege ( PDP Edo) argued that that N143 billion requested for by the President should be approved not N189 billion presented by INEC boss.
Disturbed by the continuous disagreement among the lawmakers on which budget to approved, Nazif in his remarks said the essence of inviting the Budget Minister , the Presidential liaison officer in the National Assembly , Senator Ita Enang along with INEC officials was to be seen by Nigerians to be transparent, Nationalistic and not in any way partisan .
” We are not here to play politics with the 2019 election budget . No confusion , no ambiguity on submissions made and requests before us .
” It is our prerogative as a committee to critically look into all the details and recommend either of the two requests for approval by committee of the whole at both chambers ” he said and accordingly adjourned sine die .