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TIME IS RUNNING OUT – JEGA

By NBF News
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Jega
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega on Wednesday told the Senate that the actual fund required by his Commission to conduct a successful voters' registration ahead of the 2011 general elections stands at N74 billion.

The INEC boss had earlier said the Commission required N72 billion for the exercise, saying that if Nigerians wanted the electoral body to use the existing voters' register for the 2011 elections, he could not guarantee a credible elections.

Prof. Jega who appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC to defend his proposed request for funds, said the initial N72 billion he announced was computed in error stressing that the correct figure was N74 billion.

He stressed the need for the funds to be made available on or before August 11, saying the Commission could not guarantee timely delivery of the items if the request was not met before the set date.

Jega further said; 'We are operating under a very tight frame, the way we are thinking now as a commission is that if the funding requirements are made available latest by the 11th of August, which is the second week of August, we will be able to initiate a procurement process. Under very tight time frame, but it is possible that we can procure all the 120,000 units of direct capture machines, which we need and we will be able to prepare for the training, for the deployment, for the production of all the necessary materials as well as the voters education.

'We are hoping that latest by the third week of October we should be able to deploy all of these equipment and the personnel who are appropriately trained to be able to undertake this voters' registration so that latest by the last week of October we can commence the registration and we will finish it by the end of the first week of November'.

The INEC boss equally said the Electoral Commission had to write off all the Direct Data Capture Machines purchased during the administration of Prof. Maurice Iwu because the ongoing audit of materials would take some time to complete.

According to Jega, 'Most of the materials bought by Iwu have either gone bad or were given out to other agencies. Our Auditors are working to ascertain the state of the materials, as a result, the Commission has to opt for brand new machines because the audit would take more time.

'The Commission will procure 120,000 units of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) for the entire 120,000 polling units to be used for the 2011 election. The logistics for the conduct of the election will not allow us to procure less than that number because there will not be time to move the machines around.'

He assured the Senate Committee that the new INEC under his leadership would be very transparent and accountable, adding that there would be no problems with following due process both in the procurement and the actual deployment of resources for the exercise.

Jega further said; 'For purposes of planning, given the time frame, we just have to assume the worse and we have to prepare for the worse and that means that we have to procure new machines directly with a better software and with a better component than the ones that were procured earlier on. Transportation is very important in logistical planning. We have done computation on all of these. We used about four days during the retreat that we had in Uyo in order to be detailed in the computation of these cost elements.'

He explained that the Commission was to work with the Direct Data Capture with some of the best machines, which are laptop based and not hand held, with very good resolution work camera and standard finger printing accessory as well as an extra power pack, to take care of battery. The Commission, he said, factored in some generating capabilities just in case everything failed.

'In our country, you cannot guarantee anything; we have to take a lot of measures to see how we can improve on the situation. Now if you take all these into consideration, the cost of the direct Capturing Machine alone, the unit cost from what we have got so far and that is not going vendor, the unit cost is about $2000. If you calculate $2000 by 120000 units of machine at N152 per dollar you will get about $240 million. That alone gives you N36.8 billion just for the equipment alone,' Prof. Jega said.

He further explained that if the Commission was to go through vendor, an option it wanted to avoid, it would then require that at least 30 per cent profit margin be factored into the procurement, adding that such an option would raise the cost of the equipment to N55 billion.

Jega therefore said; 'Taking all of these into consideration we feel that if we don't want to run into the same problem that the previous exercise had ran into where you deployed equipment and then there are problems of either the software or the finger printing or the web camera; we felt that we don't even know the number that is serviceable that can be used; we felt that the best thing is to plan for fresh procurement.'