Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the N100 billion allocation in the 2022 budget to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may not be enough for its procurements, writes PAUL OGBUOKIRI
INEC rejects 2022 budget allocation
While the debate has arisen over the sufficiency of the N100 billion allocation to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 2022 budget, the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, has rejected the sum earmarked by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for the conduct of 2023 general election, saying it is grossly insufficient to conduct the 2023 election.
He said that was in view of the fact that it would make all its procurements in the fiscal year for the elections slated to hold in February 2023 difficult.
He disclosed while defending the agency’s 2022 budget before the Joint National Assembly Panel that the N100 billion vote was outside INEC’s budget for 2022, which is N40 billion.
He said: “The N100 billion is the first tranche for the 2023 general election while N40 billion is our normal budget for 2022. N189 billion was appropriated for the 2019 general election.
So, it cannot be N100 billion only for 2023. “We are already in touch with the Federal Ministry of Finance on the additional requirements for the 2023 general election.
Either we come to the National Assembly to defend the budget before the committee or we would do what we did in 2019 when the executive just submitted the proposal to the National Assembly and we came to defend it.
“We would need more money because we’ve expanded our polling units and we are introducing new technology for elections among many other new innovations. The number of registered voters will increase beyond the 84 million for the 2019 general election.
“Some of the things we needed would require four months, some five months while some would require seven months. We will start early preparations now that we have the money early enough… “We hired 34, 000 vehicles for the 2019 elections.
So, we have plans to also outsource the material distribution in 2023 because we cannot afford the cost of buying such a huge number of vehicles and engage the drivers that would drive them.”
Mahmood further disclosed that the governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti states will cost the electoral umpire over N7 billion. Speaking, Ibi Ajayi, a public policy expert and Professor of Economics at the University of Ibadan, said that with the vast depreciation of the naira in the three years, INEC will need about double of the N189 billion it spent on the 2019 general election, all things being equal.
“If those funds were actually spent on the 2019 elections, if we consider the depreciation of the naira and the expansion of the polling booths as explained by INEC, it will be irrational to allocate N100 billion to them for the 2023 election. Government has to look at the issues dispassionately and do the needful for the electoral body to perform its function without being hindered by funds,” he stated.
Also speaking, Akpan Hogan Ekpo, FNES, a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Department of Economics University of Uyo, said considering the fact that the number of voters would have crossed the 84 million recorded in 2019, it makes sense to increase INEC’s allocation for the election above the N189 billion allocated to it in 2019. “Definitely, N100 billion is far cry from what the Commission will require to conduct a proper election across the country in 2023.”
Mahomood had disclosed that the Commission “made a provision of N2.6 billion for Ekiti State with a population of over one million registered voters and N4.4 billion for Osun with 30 local government areas and N4.2 billion for the continuous registration exercise in 2,700 centers.”
He said: “We also budgeted the sum of N7 billion for the conduct of Ekiti and Osun governorship election including the possibility of run-offs, saying the Commission needs far more than what has been allocated to it to organize the 2023 elections.
Buhari raises 2022 budget by 17.67%
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly, seeking a 17.67 per cent increase of the Federal Government’s projected expenditure in 2022 to N16.45 trillion from N13.98 trillion, a development observers said was with the aim of raising the INEC and other MDAs budget allocation.
The projected increase in expenditure equates to N2.47 trillion additional spending, which Buhari said was partly due to the N100 billion extra provision to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cater for 2023 general elections. President Buhari made the demand in a submission with the Revised 2022-2024 Medium Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF), accompanied by a letter read by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila at plenary on Tuesday.
The increase in expenditure was accompanied by a 21 per cent rise in projected revenues to N10.13 trillion. Analysts had said the initial revenue projection of N8.36 trillion was over ambitious, based on previous revenue trends where Nigeria has only managed about 50 per cent of budgeted revenues.
The increase in projected revenue leaves the door open to an even higher than planned fiscal deficit despite Buhari’s projection that the deficit will increase by N692.0 billion representing 3.42 per cent of GDP from 3.05 per cent of GDP in the initial fiscal deficit estimate of N5.62 trillion.
According to the President, the increase in expenditure is also due to the provision of N54 billion to the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure NASENI, which represents one per cent Federal Government Share of Federation Account.
The letter identified other reasons for the increase as: “additional provision of N510 billion in the Service Wide Votes to cater for National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (N300 billion), Police Operations Fund (N50 billion), Hazard Allowance for Health Workers (N50 billion), Public Service Wage Adjustments (additional N80 billion), and MDAs’ Electricity Bills Debt (additional N37 billion)”.
The rise is also due to additional capital provision of N1.70 trillion, attributed to projected increases in: “Capital Supplementation by N179.1 billion; GOES Capital by N222.1 billion; TETFUND Expenditure by N290.7 billion; Multilateral / Bilateral Project-tied Loans by N517.5 billion; and, MDAs Capital Expenditure by N390.5 billion (including N178.1 billion provision for population and housing census to be carried out in 2022