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2011 ELECTIONS: INEC'S REQUEST FOR N84BN UNREALISTIC – EKWEREMADU

By NBF News

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday said additional fund being requested by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enable it compile a new voters' register and conduct a credible, free and fair election in 2011 is unrealistic.

INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, had earlier announced that the body would require N74 billion for updating the voters' register while the additional N10 billion being requested would be for hazard and sundry allowances for INEC staff who would be involved in the exercise.

Speaking to journalists at the presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, Ekweremadu stated that the amount being requested for by INEC was on the high side and unrealistic for a country riddled with poverty, noting that the country should be talking of saving money from N74 billion earlier requested.

He stated that there were other ways the body could explore to reduce the money to a realistic figure, adding that the National Assembly would work with the INEC boss to reduce the amount to a reasonable sum.

'Well, that is his own estimate, that is not my estimate, so it should be adequate. We should be talking about how to save money from that figure, you know and focus on other areas. I think for the purpose of the election it is reasonable but a country such as here where we have so much poverty, it is on the high side. He may have to adjust it to be more realistic.

We believe there are other ways we can adjust this because that figure is much. Maybe he is looking at one data capturing machine per polling booth and we have 120,000 of such polling booths. So if there is any way we can deal with it in such a way that there could be like two polling booths per DCM, I'm sure it is going to reduce the figure. We will work it out with him but he is going to get all the support he needs from us,' he said.

On the alleged request for the extension of election date by the umpire body, he said the INEC chairman had always reiterated his desire to abide by the date given by the National Assembly, pointing out that those calling for the extension of the election date were those who felt the election date was inadequate for them.

'Unless he has said that this morning, Jega has been consistent that he was going to play by the law and he is not asking for any extension of date. It is the people who are asking for date. Jega personally has never asked for any date. What they wanted us to do is to adjust the period for registration of voters, from 120 days to 60 days minimum, which we have done under the new Electoral Act. He is not asking for any date, what he is asking for is to get money for the election and as soon as he gets money I' m sure he would deliver in general.'

On the likely number of states to be created by the Senate, Ekweremadu said 'I don't have the figures here and this is not the military regime where you just stay one place and say you are creating states, because we have to go through a number of procedures laid down in Section 8 of the Constitution. We are going to set up a small committee within our small committee to look at all the requests and advice us in terms of those that meet the requirements, those that are viable and those that meet the ends of justice. Then we will be able to make further recommendation to the National Assembly.'