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REPS APPROVE N87.7BN INEC BUDGET

By NBF News

At last, the House of Representatives yesterday passed the N87.7 billion supplementary budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to compile fresh voters' register for the 2011 general elections.

The House however directed that the amount be released directly to the treasury of the commission in line with the provisions of the amended constitution, which stipulated that the funding of INEC be placed on First Line Charges of the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation.

Nevertheless, the directive threw up fresh controversy over the implementation of the amended constitution as the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the House ad-hoc committee on Constitution Review, Usman Bayero Nafada had to explain to his colleagues why the new constitution was yet to be put into use.

Nafada, who presided over the session declared that it would not be possible to apply the amended constitution in respect of the fundings of INEC at the moment 'because the new law had not taken effect.'

The Chairman of Committee on Business and Rules, Mr Ita Enang had drawn the attention of the House to a clause in the INEC Appropriation Act, which required that the N87.7 billion could only be released to the commission by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) upon receiving a directive to that effect from the Minister of Finance.

He contended that the clause ought to be amended to comply with the amended constitution, which stipulated that the money for INEC be released straight to the treasury of the commission without the interference of the AGF and the Minister of Finance. The clause in the INEC Appropriation Act which generated the debate reads: 'The Accountant-General of the Federation shall, when authorised to do so by warrants signed by the Minister, charged with the responsibility for finance, pay out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation during the year ending on the 31st day of December 2010, the sums specified by the warrants, not exceeding in the aggregate N87,721,961,531 only.'

Nafada, who had to persuade his colleagues to retain the clause said: 'Honourable members, it is not possible to say that the release of this money to INEC be based on the amended constitution. 'You know that when we adopted the resolutions by the State Houses of Assembly, we stated that the new constitution will take effect when it is gazetted by the National Assembly management. 'Right now, we are still awaiting the gazetting of the document. So you cannot just begin the implementation of a law without it being gazetted. So, I want to say that we should leave this clause as it is in the INEC Appropriation Act.'

Spokesman of the House, Mr Eseme Eyibo, at a press briefing shortly after the session, declared that the fact that the INEC budget was not passed in line with the provisions of the amended constitution did not affect the legitimacy of the new constitution. According to him, the earlier position of the National Assembly that the amended constitution did not require the assent of the President to become law was still valid.