By INALEGWU SHAIBU
ABUJA — THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday expressed fears that it may not be able to conduct the forthcoming elections with the N45.3 billion provision made for it in the 2011 budget of theFederal Government.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega who expressed the concern while defending the commission’s budget before the Senate Committee on INEC observed that the funds earmarked for it was for two levels of elections before the amendment of the Electoral Act. The 2010 Electoral Act was subsequently amended to provide for three levels of elections, National Assembly, Presidential and Gubernatorial/House of Assembly.
He said: “The funds that we have are not enough do the elections. There are funding gaps and there were some consumables that were underestimated. The provisions in the 2010 budget were for two elections, but after the amendment of the Electoral Act, we now have three elections.”
The earlier version of the Electoral Act had provided for the National Assembly and the Presidential elections to be conducted on the same day before the amendment that brought the National Assembly forward.
A stir was also raised by the committee over the separate budgetary proposals submitted by Jega and the Budget Office.
Whereas Jega claimed that N51.7 billion was the Commission’s budget for 2011, the Committee claimed that the actual figure for the commission was N45.3 billion.
He told the Committee that the figure of N51.7 billion was arrived at following repeated meetings with the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance. He was unable to defend the N45.3 billion estimate for the commission that came from the Budget Office. The development forced the committee to stop the budget defence session.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, in response to Jega’s observation while closing the meeting said the N6 billion difference was too much to be taken for granted.
He directed Jega to return the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office to resolve the differences and return to the committee next week Tuesday.
Earlier in his Presentation, Professor Jega said INEC would require 360,000 ad hoc staff for the April elections, as against the 250,000 staff used for the voter registration exercise.
He also told the Committee that 4000 permanent staff would be recruited by the commission after the April elections.
He said INEC would spend N324 million on consultants who would be in charge of the recruitment exercise.
He also said that N10.8 billion would be expended on the ad hoc staff for the election, a breakdown of which include N10, 000 daily allowance for the three elections as against N5000 paid in former elections.