By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Yakuub Mamoud yesterday insisted that despite the delay in the passage of the commission’s budget for the conduct of the 2019 general elections in the country, the dates for the election remained sacrosanct. The INEC boss who said that he was not worried over the budget delay in the National Assembly, also stated that areas of doubts among the lawmakers have been cleared.
Prof. Mamoud who spoke to State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, further denied the allegation that the commission budgeted N6 billion for the feeding of police during the elections.
He also said that there was nothing like N7m budgeted for foreign observers, adding that the commission only made provision of N4.6 million for the feeding of personnel including policemen.
On the budget delay, he said,, “We have made the clarification that the National Assembly asked for. I am happy that the two committees on INEC expressed satisfaction on the clarification that we made for the matter of appropriation. So we look forward to hearing what the the National Assembly will say.
“But we also need to make this very important clarification, the commission requested for N189.2 billion. That is what the executive proposed to the National Assembly, so there are no discrepancies in the figures at all.”
On whether the delay in the passage of the budget would affect the dates already fixed, he said, “I have said this over and over again, there are no conditions under which elections should be postponed, under section 26 of the Electoral Act, the date is formed and fixed, February 16, 2019.
“We issued the timetable long in advance for the very first time in the history of our nation, citizens of Nigeria know when elections will take place one year in advance. It has never happened before.
“Secondly, for the very first time in the history of our country, Nigerians know exactly the details of the budget of the electoral commission. The budget has never been defended before the National Assembly. Now, citizens know line by line how much the commission proposed , what the money is going to be spent on. I think I am very happy with this process.”
On what brought him to the villa, he said, “It has nothing to do with our national politics. Recall that in March 2016, I was elected the President of ECOWAS network of electoral commission. In that capacity recently, we undertook a NEEDS assessment visit to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and part of what they requested from Nigeria, is assistance for voters registration kits.
“Since I returned a little over two weeks ago, I have received daily calls from electoral commission, and this afternoon, the ambassador of Guinea-Bissau to Nigeria, they want to start the voters registration on the 23rd of this month but they are relying on Nigeria to provide the assistance.
“That is why I came and I had a meeting with Ambassador Lawal with the Senior Special Assistant to the president on foreign affairs to facilitate Nigeria’s electoral assistance to Guinea-Bissau. It is important to do so because you should also remember that for several years now, Nigeria has had troops in Guinea-Bissau to stabilize the country and that stability is dependent upon the conduct of proper elections.
“Once elections are conducted, Nigerian Troops can now safely withdraw. So it’s much cheaper for Nigeria to provide this assistance.”
Also fielding question on the budget for foreign observers, he said, ‘I have had this question that we have prepared budget for international observers. There is no line in the budget for international observers.
“What are provided for are the kits, you know the jackets, caps, publication, that we give to international observers, the stickers that are fixed on their cars to be identified on Election Day. This is the standard practice. Each country that organizes elections provides these facilities for those who monitor elections.
“But their accommodation, transportation will be born by various election monitoring groups and not by the Nigerian government.”
He said the commission started the continuous voters registration exercise on 27th April 2017, stressing, “so we have been, as provided for in our constitution, registering voters consistently in the last 16 months. In response to appeal by Nigerians, we have created more centres for the registration but finally decided that we should suspended the process as provided for by the law, six months to the elections.
“But gain in response to appeal by Nigerians we have now extended it to the end of the month. As at Saturday last week the 11th of August, we have registered 12.1 million citizens, this will eventually be added to the 70 million voters that is already registered for the 2019 general elections.
We have voters register of over 80 million citizens.
“Let me make this very important clarification, the registration is going to take place between 9 in the morning and 5pm daily including weekends but excluding the public holiday. You know Tuesday and Wednesday next week have been declared public holiday.
“The second important clarification that I should make, is that the second voters registration exercise, the end of the continuous voters registration is 31st of August but does not mean the end of the collection of PVCs. Collection of PVCs will continue until at least one week to the general election in February 2019.”