…Slates N1 Billion for New Voters’ Registration …Tiding Preparations for Diaspora Voting …Court Cases from 2019 General Election Rise to 1700 Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu says the Commission will introduce electronic voting in 2021 Anambra governorship election. He revealed in an interview with Journalists on the sideline of the 2021
…Slates N1 Billion for New Voters’ Registration
…Tiding Preparations for Diaspora Voting
…Court Cases from 2019 General Election Rise to 1700
Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu says the Commission will introduce electronic voting in 2021 Anambra governorship election.
He revealed in an interview with Journalists on the sideline of the 2021 budget defence at the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters on Wednesday in Abuja.
“It is difficult to give you an idea of cost or when the process would be concluded, but we are determined that we are going to deploy electronic voting machines, electronic balloting machines very soon in our elections. Possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship election next year,” he said.
Earlier, Yakubu had told the members of the committee that the budget of the Commission had continued to decline over the years.
He recalled that in 2019, the envelop for INEC was N45.5 billion while for 2020, the envelop was N40 billion.
The chairman said that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget further dropped to N36 billion.
“As a result, the Commission decided to look inward, we have the INEC fund established under Section 3 of the INEC Act where we have some savings from previous budgets because we are not expected to remit unspent funds.
“We are on the first line charge and because of the peculiarities of our work, it is in the realisation of this that the Parliament in amending the Electoral Act introduced the INEC fund for a number of reasons.
“One, that we cannot be truly independent if we are not financially independent, secondly, there are so many commitments that arise in the middle of a financial year and we cannot meet these obligations except we have some source of funding.
“So many by-elections had risen unforeseen, and the constitution has prescribed time limits for conducting such elections.
“For example, if constituents decide to call back a member, this is not what you can project at the beginning of a fiscal year, so we have the fund, established since 2010 and we have been growing it since then,” he said.
He said that the Commission decided to take N5.2 billion from the fund to supplement the budget.
In terms of the 2020 budget performance, Yakubu said that the N36 billion that was reviewed in September, the Commission received N28.3 billion on monthly instalment basis.
According to him, from the N36 billion, we still expect a little over N7 billion, if you add this to the N5.2 billion, that will take it to N12.6 billion.
For personnel cost, he said N22billion was appropriated and that releases at the end of September was N16 billion, saying that INEC still expects N6.10 billion on personnel emoluments.
For overhead cost, Yakubu said that N2.2 billion was earmarked, N1.8 billion was so far released and the outstanding is N931 million.
“For electoral expenditures, the budgetary provision was N15.8 billion, release is N9.7 billion and we have a balance of N5.3 billion.
“Capital expenditures, N1.03 billion was appropriated, the releases is N816 million and what is outstanding for the year N520 million.
“In terms of performance, of the N36 billion appropriated, we have so far received N28.3 billion and what is outstanding is N12billion.
“For 2021, the total envelop is N40 billion, the personal cost is N23.2 billion, overhead cost is N2.4 billion and the capital expenditure is N300 million,” he said.
The INEC said it will also require about one billion naira to commence voter registration in 2021.
Professor Yakubu made the disclosure while presenting the Commission’s budget to the Nigerian Senate.
“For continuous voter registration, the Commission intend to resume voter registration in the first quarter of 2021,” Yakubu said.
“And once we resume, it will be continuous for one and half years, at least until six months to the next general election. In other words, the Commission is not going to resume voter registration for a week, two weeks or a month but we are working out the details”
Yakubu told the Senate that the number of court cases that arose from the 2019 general election had risen to 1700.
Yakubu informed the Senate that, “Each time anyone goes to court, INEC is joined, but we have to hire lawyers to defend us. We are not paying fantastic fee, we are applying Federal Ministry of Justice scale of fees.”
“If for instance you have a case for governorship election before the Supreme Court, it’s a maximum of N4.5 million. But because of the number of cases, we are almost getting close to 1700 pre-election and post-election cases in 2019 alone, and every day you hear people going to court and joining INEC, but we will continue to do what we can within available resources,” he added.
The INEC chairman also disclosed that it had completed all preparations to conduct elections in which Nigerians in Diaspora could vote.
It, however, asked Nigerians to wait for such a time the National Assembly would be ready to amend the Constitution and the appropriate laws that currently prohibits participation of persons in the Diaspora in elections.
“The Commission is desirous of giving Nigerians living abroad the right to vote. After all, all our neighbouring countries do so. But it requires the amendment to the Constitution and the Electoral Act for that to happen.
“And we have already worked out the document. Once the law is amended today, we can roll out. We are ready. We have had several meetings with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) but we can’t go beyond what the law provides”
On some groups who are always disenfranchised during elections, Yakubu admitted that the law should be amended to correct the situation.
“It’s not just those in the Armed Services, the Police involved in election duty, Journalists, INEC adhoc staff and some INEC staff don’t vote. The reason is that you are posted for election duty to places other than where you are registered, and the law says you vote where are registered.
“So, if you pass some amendments to the Electoral Act to enable people to vote, two solution perhaps, early voting, so that those involved in election duty can vote early or major reform of electoral legal framework to allow people to vote wherever they are.” He added.
The INEC chairman equally briefed the Senate on the need for its financial independence.
Yakubu told the lawmakers that the Commission cannot be independent unless it is financially independent adding that there are some activities that happen that are time-bound which required the Commission to act swiftly.
He said the INEC fund which was established in 2010 to allow the Commission to discharge those responsibilities became useful some months ago when the Commission was put under serious financial pressure.
“It was established in 2010 but there was no cause to spend from it, and from the last five years, this Commission did not spend from it.
But what has happened now is our budget for 2020 dropped to N40 billion from N45.5 bn in 2019. And as a result of the 10% COVID cut, it further dropped to N36 billion in the middle of the year when we had already made preparation for expenditure”
“Therefore since that fund is made for the rainy days, I informed the committee that the rainy day has come. So we are taking part of the fund to balance our budget for this year.”
The House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters said it would do anything within the law to help boost operations of the INEC.
Its chairman, Rep. Aishatu Dukku who made the pledge said the door of the committee was open to support the Commission.
“The door of the committee is always open to INEC on any issue that will aid the Commission meet all necessary operational commitments. We are partners in progress whose goal is to strengthen our electoral process and aid INEC in discharging its functions,” she said.
Dukku congratulated the INEC chairman on his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said “Undoubtedly, your reappointment signifies your doggedness in steering the affairs of the Commission and most importantly, your steadfastness towards conducting free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.”
She said that the committee would consider INEC’s budget to enable it discharge its mandate of conducting credible elections in Nigeria.