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Voters’ registration: INEC to ask for more funds

TO extend the ongoing voters’ registration and ensure that would-be voters were not disenfranchised, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, may approach President Goodluck Jonathan this week for more funds.

This came as some opposition political parties, weekend, opposed Jega’s decision to stop releasing grants to the parties and asked the commission to make a u-turn and stop further flouting of the law over the issue.

Vanguard learnt that since 2008, INEC was owing the 63 political parties about N2 billion in grants.
Of the N1.26 billion appropriated in the 2008 and 2009 budgets as grants to political parties,  INEC, according to Vanguard investigations, released N600 million.

In 2010, N630 million was appropriated and the money was not released. If the 2011 expected grants were added, then the electoral umpire would be owing political parties N2.1billion.

In 2008 and 2009, INEC released N6 million each to a few of the parties, irrespective of their performance at the polls, and the move pushed some of the parties to take the commission to court.

An unimpressed President Jonathan hinted, last week, that the exercise might be extended to enable enthusiastic Nigerians who had been robbed of the opportunity to register do so.

Training of adhoc staff

The President also reasoned that the exercise was bogged down by inadequate training of  ad-hoc staff, especially members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who formed the larger bulk of the registration staff.

An  INEC source said that additional funds would be needed for an extension because it was not envisaged in the commission’s budgeting for the registration.

He said: “As you know, that will involve more allowances for the registration staff and other logistics and so, there is no way that INEC would not require more funds.”

However, a Presidency source said it might be difficult to convince the Presidency and the National Assembly to entertain such requests. After approving a similar request last year, the lawmakers had asked INEC not to return with requests again.

Describing the expected request as “an unwarranted drain on the national economy,” the source said government was aware that the current voters’ registration was the most expensive in the world, but the President had gone ahead to promptly give assent to the N89 billion appropriated by the National Assembly for the exercise with the hope that INEC would have no excuses for failure.

He noted: “In the face of the woeful performance of INEC in the ongoing registration of voters in the country, there are now palpable fears over the ability of Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC to deliver on free and fair election in April and that would be a great tragedy, which will threaten the very stability of our system and put our democracy in great peril.”

A Ministry of Finance source also said that Nigeria could not afford further funding for INEC without bursting the coffers of the nation.

Wondering why the nation would spend such a jumbo sum for a process that was not working, the source said: “If you look at the comparative figures in expenditures between this and the similar exercise the nation conducted in 2006, you will realise that Jega has absolutely no reasons for complaint or failure.

“The entire 2007 election, including the voters’ registration leading to it as was provided for in the 2006 budget, was

N42,329,490,728:00 and I think that at the end of the day, the Prof. Iwu INEC received only N38 billion for the entire thing.”
He also revealed that the returns from INEC indicated that “the DDC machines cost N9, 469,700,000 plus another N10.7 billion which was released for the voter registration.”

Why INEC must release grants

National Chairman of the National Transformation Party, NTP, Hon. Emmanuel Mok, asked INEC to release the parties’ grants urgently if it was not to be seen as colluding with the ruling PDP to muzzle the opposition.

Mok said that opposition parties should be funded to stabilise the polity and deepen democracy in the country, adding: “For example, media presence is very costly. If government does not fund credible parties and candidates, they simply muzzle the opposition and incapacitate their ability to present themselves properly to the electorate for them to be able to make informed and better choices.”

National Chairman of the Citizens Popular Party, CPP, Chief Maxi Okwu, also decried the INEC’s attitude, noting that the parties had not got grants since 2009.

What the law says
Sections 91 and 92 of the Electoral Act make provisions for the Federal Government to give grants to political parties through the INEC for the purposes of election.

Section 91 (2) provides that only 30 per cent of the annual grant to political parties was shared across board to all registered political parties while 70 per cent was shared among parties that won National Assembly elections in proportion to the number of seats they won.

Only the ruling Party, PDP; All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP; and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN; have representations at the federal legislature.

At a meeting with leaders of the parties mid-December, 2010, Jega said the commission would no longer fund political parties. He said: “I don’t have money to give to parties. We do not have it. Do not let us be discussing the issue of money anytime we are meeting. Even as an institution, we look around to get money to meet our obligations.

“You all know how we went out of our way to get money appropriated to fund our activities. As a professor of Political Science, I know the importance of political parties. So, do not talk about money here please. Most of our activities are being funded by NGOs and other groups.”

-Vanguard

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Posted by on Jan 23 2011. Filed under Elections 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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