• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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FG releases election fund to INEC

Jega urges Tinubu to rethink INEC REC appointments amid partisan concerns

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) weekend confirmed the release of the budgeted amount for the February polls, giving hope for the successful conduct of the general election.

Although the exact amount released was not disclosed, about N120 billion was said to have been requested by the commission.

Kayode Idowu, chief press secretary to Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Commission, who disclosed this to BD SUNDAY, could not say exactly when the release was made.

“The amount requested has been released,” he said, adding, “yes, everything has been released.”

According to him, “what we are going to spend in this coming election has been appropriated for in the 2014 appropriation bill. The Commission does not have a specified amount for the election as the appropriation bill which also covers all other running costs like salaries of staff have been incorporated in the 2014 appropriation bill,” he said.

In March last year, Jega was said to have disclosed that the Commission would require N102 billion to conduct the 2015 general election. He said only N45 billion was presented to the National Assembly by the Budget Office, which was not even enough to procure electoral materials. The amount was upped to N120 billion after factoring in the huge financial needs to deliver a successful exercise.

The House of Representatives had recently raised concerns over the general elections, saying that adequate funding could hamper its successful conduct.

Jerry Manwe, chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, had said that while Nigerians expected INEC to conduct credible polls, they were not asking questions about the funding available to the commission and the “disturbing insecurity situation in some parts of the country.”

Read also: 2015 general election: Reps direct INEC to refund N73 billion to FG

“Of the N120 billion that INEC proposed, only N45billion was given to the commission by government. It means that the commission is short of a huge difference of N75billion. As the committee on electoral matters, our work is to alert the relevant authorities on our findings and the implications for the 2015 elections,” the committee had observed in June.

“Funding and security play a role in the credibility of any election. So, we will have to look at all these with the INEC chairman,” he added.

In a report, ‘Nigeria’s dangerous 2015 elections: Limiting the violence’ released late last year, the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based advocacy organisation, said that the dwindling allocations to INEC was already hampering its preparations towards the 2015 elections.

According to ICG, one of INEC’s greatest challenges arises from funding gaps.

“In 2011, the commission was given N85 billion (then approximately $515million) from a special fund that enabled it to conduct that year’s elections successfully. However, in 2012, its allocation dropped to N35 billion (some $225million) and then dropped further to N32billion (about $200 million) in 2013. In year (2014), the commission had estimated it would need N93 billion ($560 million) to prepare for the 2015 elections, but it was appropriated only N45 billion ($272 million). The reduced funding and the inconsistent manner in which it is disbursed have hampered some of the commission’s preparations.”

Despite the release of the funds, stakeholders have called on INEC to show capacity in the conduct of the forth-coming election. According to some of them, the commission, which has been enmeshed in various controversies, must rise from the ashes of negative perception to deliver on the job expected of it. Some of the challenges confronting INEC, according to observers include the lingering insecurity in the North East, the controversy over distribution of the permanent voters cards (PVCS), whether or not to conduct elections in the troubled spots of the North and how the internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be accommodated in the exercise.

The INEC chairman, at a recent meeting said: “Several security threats now characterise the electoral process. These include physical attacks on INEC officials and facilities, attack on security personnel on election duty, misuse of security orderlies by politicians, attack on political opponents; cyber attack targeting INEC’s databases, especially the voter register   and violence during electioneering.   Other threats are intimidation of voters, snatching and destruction of election materials, among others. These threats are now exacerbated by insecurity in some parts of the country, thereby making the conduct of elections in those parts even more insecure.”

Jega said further that the attitude of the political class was also another problem giving the commission a major headache.

Pundits say that beyond the release of needed funds, INEC may not be able to deliver on the national assignment.

For instance, still bewildered by the electoral body’s seeming inability, in four years, to satisfactorily deliver Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to all voters who registered in 2011, and register more persons to vote in next month’s election, civil society groups and social crusaders are of the opinion that INEC needs to prove to Nigerians that it is truly ready for the polls.

Yinka Odumakin, a chieftain of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba group, also a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, said going by the shoddy handling of the PVC distribution nationwide, which will result in many Nigerians being disenfranchised, INEC has shown it is not prepared for the election.

“It is good for funds to be released to INEC early enough, but the question is how prepared is the commission itself. In terms of statistics, logistics and organisiation to ensure that eligible Nigerians are not stripped of their right to vote, how prepared is INEC? If I am to judge by what we have seen with regard to the PVC distribution, I will say INEC is ill-prepared. But I agree they need funds,” Odumakin said.

Balarabe Musa, a former governor of old Kaduna State, said INEC was not ready enough for the elections. He said that the absence of an amended law would negate the 2015 election.

“INEC is not prepared for the 2015 election; we are going to have a mess; we are going to have imperfect election, bad election and it will still be called election, and winners will be allowed, which means there will be no legitimacy,” Musa said.

Seyi Gambo, convener, Good Governance Group, a non-governmental organisation, said INEC was not being sincere with Nigerians regarding its activities and funding.

According to Gambo, “the constitution is clear that INEC is the only agency to regulate elections, and it is strange why they have been economical with the true picture of their funding as appropriated. If INEC feels the funds are coming rather too late in the day and it will hamper the elections, this is the time to cry out to stakeholders.

“However, if INEC believes since the structures are already established and it will be a seamless operation, they should allocate and disburse same immediately. The only worry I have has been about the needed training of INEC’s human capital. We have heard of how agents of INEC seem not to know what to do; there are complaints about things as minor but important as food to eat in some areas. Toll gates for people who want to collect their PVCs etc. What the incoming National Assembly should ensure is the time funds should be disbursed to INEC at the least and ensure that the executive releases the fund as and when due. This is however, towards subsequent elections.”

Nelson Ekujumi, executive director, Centre for Rights and Grassroots Initiative, said that the centre was yet to be impressed by what the electoral body has done so far. He believes that, by now, the commission ought to have gone beyond distribution of PVCs to effectively engaging the electorate in voter education—how to vote in order to eliminate or reduce to the barest minimum incidences of voided votes.

“Unfortunately, INEC is still battling with PVC distribution even as millions of Nigerians who registered in 2011 are yet to collect their PVCs. Also, there are Nigerians who were not in the country in 2011, but now back home. Many of them will be disenfranchised because they have not been registered to take part in the 2015 election. These are issues we are worried about,” said Ekujumi, who also believes that the electoral body needs to be properly funded to be on top of its games.

John Onyenemere, a labour leader and former president of National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), agrees that the commission needs adequate funding which should always be made available to it in good time for early preparations.

Onyenemere nevertheless tasked the commission on adequate preparation, saying Nigerians expected INEC to do better than it has so far done given the time at its disposal from 2011 to have distributed the PVCs and register new entrants into the voting bracket.