The Chairman Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Suleiman Nazif, on Friday said the committee would submit its report to the Committee on Appropriation for further action.
Nazif made this known when the Minister of Budget and Planning, Udo Udoma and INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, appeared before the joint committee on INEC in Abuja on Friday.
The joint committee had invited Yakubu to appear before it to give further clarification on the commission’s budget for the 2019 general elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari had requested the National Assembly to approve N189billion, out of which N143.52 billion will be in the form of virement for funding of the 2019 elections from the 2018 Budget.
He said the balance of N45 billion would be included in the 2019 Budget.
The INEC chairman also presented a budget of N189 billion but explained that the commission required the whole amount for the conduct of the election.
Nazif said the committee would meet to deliberate on what was presented to it and thereafter forward its report to the Committee on Appropriation for further action.
However, he expressed concern that while INEC was requesting the appropriation of the total amount, which is N189billion, Mr President requested for virement of N143 billion from the 2018 budget and balance of N45 billion from the 2019 Budget.
According to him, the committee will meet to decide on which of the request is viable before sending its report to the appropriate committee.
“We made consultations and it was based on that that we invited the Minister of Budget and National Planning to make comment on the issue in contention.
“The issue in contention is that we have a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari of a Supplementary Budget of N143 billion.
“Though, there is another N45 billion which he said will be included in the 2019 Budget. When you put that together, you will get N189billion, which is what INEC also presented.
“So, there is no confusion in it. INEC did the right thing. INEC sent exactly the same thing.
“However, it is the source of funding that is the problem and that is why we invited you.
“The president said the balance of N45 billion will be serviced from the 2019 budget and our concern is that election would have been over by then,” he said.
The chairman said the national assembly was determined to ensure a successful election and would work towards achieving that.
He stressed that the essence of the invitation was only to get clarification on the budget and not “to fight anybody or play politics.
“We have gotten the message from the minister of planning. It is our duty to decide on what to do.
“We have the prerogative as a committee and we will decide if we will go with N143 billion or 189 billion.
“We are talking about national interest and we should be united to move the nation forward,” he said
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr Udo Udoma appreciated the lawmakers for cutting short their recess to attend to the budget.
He said, “the amount INEC asked for is N189 billion but when Mr President considered the funding constraint, the budget office looked through the budget.
“We realised that there are aspects of this budget that will not be spent in 2018 but in 2019 and those elements were pushed to 2019 budget.
“I heard that one of your concerns is that the 2019 budget may not be passed in time to accommodate the N45 billion.
“What I will like to say is that we will have no objection to your appropriating the full amount of N189billion, so that you do not have to reconsider for the 2019 budget.
“That will mean that we will not include the N45 billion in the 2019 budget.
“Because the President has approved 189billion, should you wish to appropriate for the full amount now, the president will not have objection.
“However, the president came in the form of Virement because of funding constraint so as not to increase the overall size of the 2018 budget.”
The minister said the request by the president that the election budget be funded from N578 billion inserted in the 2018 Budget by the national assembly was to maintain the budget size.
However, he noted that the N578 billion was not inclusive of N100billion appropriated for constituency projects.
He said, “we prepared a schedule which was attached to the letter sent to the national assembly and the schedule has projects worth N578 billion.
“Provided the amount is taken from this by way of Virement, it will be consistent with the president’s request.
“This list of projects does not include the N100billion provided for constituency projects.”
He said that Mr President would be appreciative if the N189 billion was appropriated before the elections.
In his remarks, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said what INEC submitted to the committee was in tandem with what the president presented.
He, however, noted that the issue is, how much of it is coming out of Supplementary Appropriation of 2018 and how much of it is going to be taken in 2019.
“How the money is sourced is not a matter for INEC, it is a matter between the Executive and the National Assembly.
Yakubu, however, reminded the committee that 2019 general elections had started counting and would require funds.
According to him, from now to the 2019 general elections, is 182 days, 20 hours, 17 minutes and 33 seconds. (NAN)