The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s N242.2bn virement request to fund the 2019 general elections.
The virement covers the election budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission and all security agencies as well as the Office of the National Security Adviser.
The virement, which the House directed should be funded from the Service Wide Vote, brought the total election costs to N831.2bn.
INEC and the affected agencies already had a total provision of N589bn in the 2018 budget for their operations.
The additional N242.2bn to be sourced from the SWV brought the total election budget for 2019 to N831.2bn.
The breakdown showed that INEC had N45bn in the 2018 budget and received a virement of N189bn, bringing the commission’s total to N234.5bn.
The NSA’s office had N37.4bn in the 2018 budget and got additional N9.4bn, bringing its total to N46.9bn.
The Department of State Services received a budgetary allocation of N40.5bn in 2018 and got additional virement of N10.2bn, bringing the agency’s total to N50.7bn.
Similarly, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, which had N79.2bn in 2018, received additional N3.5bn, bringing its total to N82.8bn.
The Police, which had N324.2bn in the 2018 budget, got N27.3bn as virement, leaving its total at N351.5bn.
The Nigerian Immigration Service also got a virement of N2.6bn. Its 2018 budget was N61.9bn, bringing the agency’s total to N64.6bn.
The overall budget for election funding tallied at N831.2bn.
The House kept to its promise by passing the virement without delay.
A motion urging members to approve the virement was moved by the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr Mustapha Bala-Dawaki.
The Chairman, House Committee on Ethics/Privileges, Mr Nicholas Ossai, seconded the motion.
It was passed in a unanimous voice vote.
The approval of the virement came as the House also passed the controversial Electoral Act (amendment) Bill for second reading and immediately referred it to the Committee of the Whole for consideration on Wednesday (today).
Members passed the bill for a second reading, having expressed satisfaction with the report of the Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters chaired by Mrs Aisha Dukku.
The committee had worked on the objections raised by Buhari in August when he declined to assent to the bill.
All of the President’s objections were addressed and adopted by the House on Wednesday.
Dukku’s presentation reads partly, “It is worthy to state very clearly that all the issues raised by the President, while declining assent to the bill, range from elections sequence, cross-referencing errors or poor drafting, card reader, omission of names candidate before an election, donation to political parties, election expenses to other related matters as captured above, have been squarely addressed.”
For example, in Clause 87(14), one of the areas raised by Buhari on deadline for the primary election, the House addressed it by inserting that “the date of the primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the date of the election to the elective offices.”
The original provision that Buhari rejected captured 120 days and 90 days.
For election expenses, the maximum for a presidential candidate is N5bn while that of a governor is N1bn.
National Assembly members have their expenses pegged at N500m (for Senate) and N250m for (Reps), while state assembly members, local government chairmen and councillors are pegged at N50m, N30m and N15m in that descending order.
For political parties, the ceiling of donations they can receive from individuals or organisations is N10m.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Tuesday that the House would debate the bill for passage the same day.
The bill will likely be passed for third reading on Thursday (tomorrow) after the consideration today.
2019: Senate approves N53bn for security agencies
The Senate on Tuesday approved N53, 237,777,707 for the Office of the National Security Adviser and security agencies to supervise the 2019 general elections.
Other beneficiaries are the Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The approval followed the recommendation by the Senate Committee on Appropriations which report on the budget was adopted at the plenary on Tuesday.
The Senate had last week approved N189bn for INEC to conduct the elections. It was observed that the lawmakers slashed the budgets of the Nigeria Police Force and the DSS.
The President proposed N30, 541,317,432 for the police but the lawmakers approved N27, 341,317,433. The DSS was to get N12, 213,282,455 but got N10, 213,282,455 approved.
The budgets of the NSCDC and the NIS, N3, 573,534,500 and N2, 628,143,320, respectively, were approved as proposed.
The budget of the ONSA was raised from N4, 281,500,000 to N9, 481,500,000, Just like INEC’s. The Senate approved the recommendation by the Committee on Appropriations that the budget of the security agencies for the polls be funded through virement from the N500bn voted to the Social Intervention Programme under the Service Wide Votes of the Presidency in the 2018 Appropriations Act.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, said, “We have finally passed the request on the supplementary budget for INEC and security agencies. I hope that with this, those security agencies will do what is required to ensure that we have safe and credible elections in 2019. Also, the agencies should play their role in ensuring that they are professional during this period.”