N18 Billion Supplementary Budget
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has been under the spotlight recently for its allocation of N18 billion in the 2023 supplementary budget. This allocation has raised several questions and concerns among Nigerians, and it’s crucial to understand how this substantial sum of money will be utilized. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the intricacies of the INEC’s budget allocation, shedding light on its intended use and the impact it may have on Nigeria’s electoral process.
The INEC Chairman’s Clarification on N18 Billion Supplementary Budget
Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of INEC, addressed the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, providing valuable insights into the allocation of the N18 billion supplementary budget. It’s essential to note that this budget is not solely designated for the conduct of the three off-cycle elections but encompasses various key elements of INEC’s operations.
Conducting Off-Cycle Elections
INEC’s primary responsibility is to oversee elections in Nigeria, including off-cycle elections. The electoral body is set to conduct off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States, as well as bye-elections in some states of the Federation. These elections are vital for maintaining the democratic process in the country and ensuring that the voice of the people is heard.
Professor Yakubu clarified that the expenditure for these off-cycle elections and bye-elections has been included in the supplementary budget. This allocation is a significant step towards promoting transparency and accountability in the electoral process, ensuring that these elections are conducted efficiently.
Staff Salaries and Allowances
A substantial portion of the N18 billion budget is allocated for the payment of staff salaries and allowances. INEC employs over 15,000 staff, and it’s essential to ensure that they are adequately compensated for their crucial roles in organizing and conducting elections.
In recent developments, there has been a 40 percent increase in the peculiar allowance of civil servants. This increase was not accounted for in the 2023 budget, as it was passed in December of the previous year. Additionally, a circular from the government in February further increased Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and other consequential allowances for civil servants.
To accommodate these increased costs, INEC sought the government’s support and was included in the supplementary budget. The allocation of N10.6 billion for staff salaries and allowances is a vital component of the supplementary budget, ensuring that INEC can continue to operate effectively.
Filling Vacancies: Bye-Elections
Another critical aspect of the N18 billion supplementary budget is addressing the vacancies that have arisen in the national assembly and state assemblies. INEC is responsible for conducting by-elections to fill these vacancies, a task that has been hindered by the lack of budgetary provisions.
As of now, there are 11 vacancies, seven in the national assembly and four in state assemblies, that INEC must address through by-elections. Unfortunately, there were no budgetary provisions for these unforeseen and unbudgeted by-elections. This has posed a significant challenge to INEC’s ability to fulfill its mandate efficiently.
The Importance of Budgetary Provisions
The absence of budgetary provisions for conducting these by-elections has created a gap in the electoral process. INEC plays a vital role in ensuring that legislative positions are filled promptly, allowing for effective governance. When these positions remain vacant, it can disrupt legislative activities and hinder decision-making processes.
The Challenge of Frequent By-Elections
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, expressed his concern over the frequency of by-elections. He highlighted that within four months after the inauguration of the national and state assemblies, 11 vacancies had occurred. This frequency of by-elections, with a majority originating from the House of Representatives, has been a challenge for INEC.
The House of Representatives alone has five vacancies, two caused by the unfortunate deaths of members and three due to honorable members’ resignations. Additionally, there are vacancies in four state constituencies across the country and two senatorial districts.
Each time INEC conducts three senatorial bye-elections, it incurs significant costs, akin to conducting a governorship election. This demonstrates the financial strain on INEC when it must organize these elections without budgetary provisions.
A Glimpse into INEC’s Challenges
This detailed breakdown of how the N18 billion supplementary budget will be used by INEC sheds light on the challenges that the electoral commission faces. From conducting crucial off-cycle elections to addressing vacancies in the legislative assemblies, INEC’s responsibilities are vast and demanding.
The allocation of funds in the supplementary budget is a necessary step to ensure that INEC can fulfill its mandate effectively. It underscores the importance of financial support to maintain a transparent and efficient electoral process in Nigeria.
In conclusion, the N18 billion supplementary budget allocated to INEC is a pivotal investment in the democratic process in Nigeria. It supports the commission’s efforts to conduct off-cycle elections, pay staff salaries and allowances, and address legislative vacancies through by-elections.
By understanding the intricate details of this budget allocation, we can appreciate the complexities and challenges that INEC faces in fulfilling its vital role in Nigerian democracy. The provision of adequate funding is essential for the commission’s success, and it is a step towards ensuring free and fair elections in the country.