By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—STRONG indications of a fresh crisis between the Executive and Legislative arms of government emerged, yesterday, as Senate, at plenary, said the N189 billion elections budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should be sourced from the N500 billion earmarked for Special Intervention Programme, SIP, captured in the Service Wide Votes of the 2018 Appropriation Act.
The fight may come from the refusal of the Senate to approve N189 billion from Constituency Intervention Funds to fund the 2019 general elections.
The Senate has, however, vired the money from N500 billion SIP proposed in the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget .
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The upper chamber, while adopting the report of the Appropriation Committee, led by Senator Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central), which sought approval for the virement, vired the N189 billion from the N500 billionn earlier appropriated for the Special Intervention Programmes proposed by the executive in the 2018 budget.
However, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which met on Wednesday to finalise work on the request, submitted its report yesterday.
Meanwhile, contrary to expectations that the committee will approve President Muhammadu Buhari’s request, it did not.
Rather, it adopted the position of its counterpart committee on INEC and Electoral Matters that the funds be sourced from Service Wide Vote.
In his presentation, Senator Goje said: “ That the sum of N189, 007,272,393 requested for the funding of the 2019 general elections should be vired from both recurrent and capital components of Special Intervention Programme captured in the service wide votes of the 2018 Appropriation Act”
The committee in the adopted report, also recommended that the sum of N45.5billion provided for INEC in the statutory transfers be added to the vired N189bn which makes the total budget profile of INEC in the 2018 budget to N234,507, 272,393 billion.
Presenting the report, Goje said: “The sum of N189 billion requested for the funding of the 2019 general elections should be vired from both recurrent and capital components of Special Intervention Programme captured in the Service Wide Votes of the 2018 Appropriation Act and be added to the sum of N45.5 billion provided for INEC in the statutory transfers.
“This will bring the total budget of INEC in. The 2018 budget to N234,507 billion.”
“It is pertinent to mention that the recommendations on this interim report cover provisions for INEC’s 2019 general elections operations.
‘’In making this recommendation, the committee took into account the report of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on INEC, which met several times with INEC during the recess to justify the need for their component of the request.
“The final report which will cover the affected security agencies will be presented in the next legislative day.”
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in separate letters requesting for virement of money for INEC budget for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, asked the National Assembly to carry it out from the N578bn special votes inserted into the budget by the federal lawmakers for execution of about 1,403 additional projects included in it.
Specifically, President Buhari, had in a letter addressed to the Senate in July, asked the lawmakers to vire the sum of N242 billion from the N500 billion it illegally inserted into its Constituency Intervention Funds, to allow INEC and security agencies to conduct the 2019 general elections.
Before the Senate embarked on its annual break in July, it failed to approve the funds, but the committee on INEC and Electoral Matters held series of meetings with officials of INEC, where some grey areas were addressed.
The Suleiman Nazif-led Joint committee, at the end of the day, stood its ground that President Buhari must find other sources of funding for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, just as said that it was unwilling to approve the reduction of funds meant for the lawmakers’ constituency projects.
Specifically as recommended by the Goje committee in the adopted report, while N144.7bn will be vired from N350 billion recurrent component of the Special Intervention votes, the remaining balance of N44.2bn would be vired from N150 billion capital component of the Special Intervention Programmes votes .
Meanwhile the committee in collaboration with that of the House of Representatives had met with heads of affected security agencies having budgets for the election with a view to approving the N53.6bn proposed for them which made the entire budget for the 2019 general elections to be N242.445bn.