The House of Representatives has raised the alarm that the much-expected 2015 general elections would be in jeopardy if no urgent steps were taken to address the financial predicament besetting the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The lower chamber said through its Committee on Electoral Matters that INEC, as a matter of fact, had no money to conduct the 2015 polls because the Federal Government had not funded the commission.
The committee chairman, Jerry Manwe, told our correspondent in Abuja that the electoral commission needed N120bn to conduct the election but that it had less than half of the sum.
“Out of the N120bn that INEC proposed, only N45bn was given to the commission by government. It means that the commission is short of a huge difference of N75bn.
“We have alerted the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation; we as a committee, we cannot initiate a supplementary budget for INEC.
“As it stands, INEC has no money to conduct the elections. If they are not able to get supplementary appropriation, there will be serious problems.”
The lawmaker said time was already running out on the commission to get some of its programmes for the election on track.
He noted that that funding challenges could mar the elections, expressing concern that while everyone was already looking forward to the election, questions were not asked about the financial capacity of INEC to deliver.
He stressed that his committee had come to the conclusion that a supplementary budget for INEC could be the only way out, following a series of interface with the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and independent investigations conducted by the committee.
“As the Committee on Electoral Matters, our work is to alert the relevant authorities to our findings and the implications for the 2015 elections,” Manwe explained.
He however said he was hopeful that the Federal Government would address the issue with a supplementary budget in the weeks ahead.
“We are waiting to see what happens as we enter July, but it is important to say that, ‘this is the situation for now,” he added.
Curiously, Jega had barely three weeks ago appeared before the House Committee on Reform of Government Institutions on June 9 and gave the assurance that preparations for the polls were on course.
“We give assurance that preparations by INEC for the 2015 general elections are proceeding in earnest,” he stated.
But, he also admitted that the commission’s immediate challenges included “insecurity, funding, attitude of the political class, apathetic and inactive citizenry, delay in amendment to the legal framework; completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units.”