By Daniel Idonor
ABUJA – The federal government has releasedÂ the sum of N87.7bn to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
THE Minister of Finance, Mr Olusegun Aganga Friday disclosed that he had last Wednesday released the N87.7 bnÂ supplementary budget of INEC, as approved by the National Assembly and consequently signed into law by President Jonathan.
Aganga while briefing State House Correspondents moment after President Jonathan assented the Electoral Act said “immediately after the INEC meeting with the national assembly leaders and some members of the executive, the president directed that the funding for INEC should be sourced immediately, the following day the required funds were sourced and released”.
According to him, “we also had a follow up meeting with the chairman of INEC and the supplementary budget for the full amount of N89.5bn was submitted to the National Assembly for approval”.
He explained that “I also appeared before the National Assembly alongside with the chairman of INEC to confirm and reassure the national assembly and the country that the funds have been sourced and will be made available to INEC as and when due to INEC once the supplementary budget was approved”.
“I am delighted to announce to say that the amount due today was released as soon as the supplementary budget was signed by the President. The INEC chairman and I have a process to monitor progress, we talk regularly. So, we have a very open communication, we are committed to helping INEC succeed. If we are true, if we have dentified this as a main priority of the government to have a free and fair election then, we have to be seen to be supporting them in every way we can and that is what we have done so far”, he added.
The Minister stressed that INEC is indeed independent saying that “you will notice that we have tried to maintain independence because it is critical and let me tell you we have done that so far with INEC”.,
“It is different when we first met with them they gave us an estimate for the full thing of the total amount of roughly about N72 billion and when we met again, they said sorry it is not N72 billion any more, it is higher than that and in fact that we are under provided for by another N15 billion”, he said.
He pointed out that “the normal thing for me to do is to say I want you to explain why and I will cut the number down but with INEC, I have not gone through that process. The N89.5 billion which was the total amount was submitted by INEC was submitted to the National Assembly because we did not want to be seen to be challenging them because if anything went wrong government will be blamed for not supporting INEC”.
Commending the bold initiatives of President Jonathan, in that regard, Aganga argued that “the president has set the direction, he has made it absolutely clear that said he wants a free and fair election and the minimum we can do as a government is to provide that support to them entirely and I as Finance minister, it is my job to implement the funding side of it and I need to assure the INEC chairman every moment that whatever he needs in terms of financial support I will make it available”.