By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday raised the alarm that if the Commission must conduct forthcoming elections without hiccups, there was an urgent need for the budgetary allocation to be reviewed and increased.
According to the Commission, the N1billion proposed for the conduct of elections would not be enough to execute the governorship and other elections slated for next year, adding that the N1billion set aside for the conduct of polls would also be deployed to Continous Voter Registration exercise ahead of the governorship polls in those two states.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja to defend the budget proposal before the Joint Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Electoral Matters, Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu told the lawmakers that adequate provisions had been made in the 2019 budget for the governorship polls billed to hold in Bayelsa and Kogi States on November 16, 2019.
Yakubu said that the sum of N2.7billion has been earmarked for the said elections out of which INEC has spent N1.1billion so far, adding that the Commission would be saving about N500million following its decision to combine the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi with other pending supplementary elections in the two states.
He said that aside from the governorship polls scheduled to hold in Ondo and Edo States, the Commission will also in not less than forty-two (42) conduct supplementary elections in different states across the country.
Yakubu who came with other officials of the Commission decried the reduction of its budget from N45.5billion to N40billion in the 2020 Appropriation Bill under consideration at the National Assembly.
The INEC boss who noted that the Electoral Umpire had consistently been on an annual budget of N45.5billion in the last two consecutive years, said that reduction by N5.5 billion will constitute a major constraint on the operations of the Commission.
Earlier, the lawmakers had taken a swipe at INEC on its involvement in extra-budgetary expenditure, just as they warned that it ought to seek approval for any change or virement on any item on the budget passed by the National Assembly.
Professor Yakubu on his part had explained that the extra-budgetary expenditures became imperative because of the urgent need to meet up constitutional timelines on several off-season elections and did not exceed the budgetary provisions.