The defence of the 2019 general election budget began with fireworks, yesterday, as federal lawmakers queried discrepancies in the figures presented by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
After weeks of push and shove, appropriate committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives had cut short their annual recess to consider the controversial budget, which has pitted the executive and the parliament.
While Mahmood presented a budget of N189, 207,544,893.13, President Buhari had on July 17, 2018, presented N143,512,529,455.
Following the defence of the election budget by INEC, observers are optimistic that the National Assembly might reconvene soon to consider Buhari’s request to vire N242 billion from this year’s budget for the conduct of the 2019 general election.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara had in a statement on Tuesday said the National Assembly could reconvene this week to consider the virement request because the electoral body has not appeared before the relevant committees.
Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters, who grilled Prof. Yakubu observed that some of the items contained in the proposal had already been provided for in the 2018 Appropriation Act.
The NASS had earlier appropriated N45 billion for the electoral body in the 2018 fiscal year.
The lawmakers also raised eyebrow about the sum of N6 billion budgeted for the feeding of policemen, who will be on electoral duties during the 2019 polls.
Mahmood, who had earlier informed the lawmakers that the next general elections “is only 128 days away,” noted that there were presently 91 political parties and 21,000, 000 voters have so far been registered to participate in the next general election.
A breakdown of the budget proposal is as follows: Election operation cost – N134,427,868,157.50, Election technological Cost – N27,503,970,680, Election administrative cost – N22,660,887.50 and Miscellaneous expenses – N4,614,818,168.13.
Chairman of the committee, Aisha Dukku said the House was committed to issue that will strengthen the nation’s electoral process and help INEC in discharging its functions.