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VOTERS REGISTER: SENATE HOLDS EMERGENCY SESSION NEXT TUESDAY

By NBF News

Following the request for N74 billion by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the leadership of the Senate has resolved to cut short its annual recess and sit next Tuesday to consider the budget for the review of voters' register for 2011 elections. The Tuesday plenary would also feature the screening, three additional ministerial nominees presented to the Senate last weekend by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Senate had last Thursday proceeded on eight weeks annual vacation and was expected to resume plenary on September 29.

However, giving the urgent matter of national importance with regards to voters' register, the Senate resolved to reconvene next Tuesday to specifically approve the INEC request submitted by the Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, confirmed the development on Tuesday, saying that the Senate would at the scheduled plenary look at the N74billion budget.

Senator Eze said President Jonathan had presented three additional ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

He, however, declined to disclose the names of the new nominees as he merely said they would appear before the Senate on Tuesday next week.

The spokesman had last week declared that the Senate will at short notice cut short its recess to consider any request by INEC for the conduct of the voters' register.

He explained that the resolve of the Senate leadership to cut its recess was in keeping with its policy of providing the necessary legislative support to INEC ahead of the 2011 elections.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekwremadu, had on Monday said that the N74 billion was too much for the conduct of the the register particularly when considered against the backdrop of widespread poverty in the country.

Prof Jega had last week told the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters that his commission needed N74billion for the review of register, warning that failure to release the required funds before August 11 might put the polls in jeopardy.

The INEC chairman at an interactive session with the Senator Isiaka Adeleke-led Committee said he had since discovered an error in the N72billion earlier declared by the commission for the conduct of the much-delayed voters' registration.

According to Prof. Jega, so from our own calculation, clearly we will need N74 billion. We realized that there was even an error in the calculation. We have corrected it and made it available to the executive where we first made that. So we took all these things into consideration.

' Now if you take all these into consideration, the cost of the direct data capturing machine alone, the unit cost from what we have got so far, and that is not going to the vendor, the unit cost is about $2,000. If you calculate $2,000 by 120,000 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.

'If you are going to go through the vendor which is an option we are trying to avoid, then you have to factor at least 30 per cent profit margin. That in self-raises the cost of the equipment to N55 billion. And then if you take the cost of the training which we have costed, the cost of voters' education, which we have done, the logistical requirement in terms of transportation and also the allowances that have to be paid to the personnel whether they are for training purpose or for actual exercise, it comes to a lot of money. So from our own calculation, clearly we will need N74 billion. We realized that there was even an error in the calculation.'

The INEC chairman explained that the commission was operating under very tight frame, adding that the way the commission was thinking was that if the funding requirements were made available latest by the 11th of August, it would be able to initiate a procurement process.