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Fresh Register: House Defers Passage Of INEC's Budget

Source: SAINT MUGAGA - thewillnigeria.com
PHOTO: INEC CHAIRMAN, PROFESSOR ATTAHIRU JEGA.
PHOTO: INEC CHAIRMAN, PROFESSOR ATTAHIRU JEGA.


ABUJA, August 11, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives has deferred the approval of the N89.592 billion proposal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of a fresh voter registration ahead of the 2011 elections.

The Senate had two days ago approved N87.7 billion for INEC out of the N89.592 billion naira requested by the electoral body.

In spite of the warning from INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega that if the money is not made available to the commission within two weeks, the 2011 elections may not be feasible, members of the House who cut short their two months recess to consider the budget proposal picked holes in the budget and postponed the passage till Thursday.

In his lead debate on the general principles of the bill, House leader, Hon. Tunde Akogun had appealed to members to approve the proposal considering the short time left for INEC to carry out the fresh registration and conduct election.

He told his colleagues that, "History beckons on us today as we cut short our recess to come to the aid of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its bid to conduct credible, free and fairs election that could be acceptable both at home and abroad", he stated.

But Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs, Hon. Abdul Ningi in his contribution argued that it will be wrong for the House to sacrifice expediency and approve the budget without proper scrutiny explaining that some of items were actually questionable.

He noted that some items on the proposal were already provided for in the 2010 Appropriation Act adding that it would be wrong for members to pretend that all was well with the proposal just because the time left is very short.

In his own contribution, the Minority leader of the House, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume who also agreed that the proposal should be properly scrutinized also appealed to members to approve the request by the INEC Boss to purchase the data capture machines direct from the manufacturer because according to him a whooping sum of N17 billion would be saved if he did that.

Another member, Hon. Halims Agoda in his own contribution to the debate said that in a country where there is no portable water to drink, good roads and good healthcare system, the amount being asked for by the INEC Chairman looks big but said considering the clamour by Nigerians to have a credible election in 2011, members should approve the proposal after careful scrutiny for the purpose of transparency and accountability.

Former Speaker of the House, Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh who also contributed to the debate said members should look at the challenges ahead of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), members should endeavour to carry out whatever scrutiny they deem necessary and pass the budget on time for the INEC boss to commence the process of 2011 general elections without much delay.

Other members who insisted that the proposal must be properly scrutinized included Hon. Leo Ogor, Igochukwu Aguma, Emmanuel Jime, Terngu Tsegba. Former speaker pro tempore, Hon. Tergu Tsegba cited example of an item on the proposal seeking for N3 billion for transportation and another item on the 2010 Appropriation Act which he said had a provision of N4 billion for logistics.

While contributing, Hon. Igochukwu Aguma expressed worry that an item on the proposal asked for a whooping N260 million for hotel accommodation for national Resident Electoral Commissioners for a period of three months as against the 28 days stipulated by the civil service law.

At the end of the debate that lasted over two hours, Speaker Dimeji Bakole put the question and majority of members at plenary unanimously agreed that the proposal be read a second time but should be committed to the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation for further legislative scrutiny.