John Ameh and ENIOLA AKINKUOTU
The National Assembly may cut the budget for the 2019 polls, due to duplication of line items by the Independent National Electoral Commission, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
Findings on Saturday showed that ahead of the resumed sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Electoral Matters on Monday, August 27, members’ opinions tilted towards adopting INEC’s version of the budget, which is N189.2bn.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s version was N143bn. Before the committees adjourned for the Sallah break, there was a deadlock on whether to pick the President’s version or INEC’s.
But, committee sources disclosed to SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja that the INEC version would be adopted, though it might be cut due to duplication of line items.
One senior official informed SUNDAY PUNCH that several duplications were identified, especially in the allocations which INEC made for the police and other security agencies.
The source observed that those items were also provided for in the 2018 national budget of N9.12trillion earlier passed by the National Assembly.
The source added that at the resumed sitting on Monday, the committees would first iron out the duplications by getting the heads of the affected security agencies to appear and defend the fresh proposals by INEC.
The official spoke further, “We are trying to harmonise the President’s version and INEC’s version. But, it may not be that same figure (N189.2bn) because there are line items that we are going to follow one-by-one.
“There are duplications of some of the line items, which means that the funds allocated to them will be dropped.
“Again, the funds allocated to the security agencies, such as the N6bn to the police and others will also be cut.
“We will invite the police, the Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the Nigeria Immigration Service to appear, so that we can be sure that the funds we already approved for them in the national budget are not repeated in INEC’s elections budget.
“Remember that the National Assembly increased the national budget (N9.12tn) by over N508bn. In that increment, the security agencies were given additional N20bn. Here, we have the INEC budget making provisions for the security agencies again.
“So, first, we will invite these security agencies so that they can come and defend these new provisions by INEC. In the process, any duplication that we identify will be removed.”
The official told SUNDAY PUNCH that the heads of the security agencies would either appear on Monday or a decision would be taken by the committees on when they would appear.
“The implication is that, the joint committee may or may not conclude its work on Monday. It depends on the speed with which the heads of the security agencies will come to defend these items.
“We must avoid a situation where we approve N6bn for the police in the INEC budget and there is another N6bn or more in another budget elsewhere.
“We have to remove all the duplications, which will ultimately affect the final size of the budget. This, we will do within the week, from Monday”, the source added.
When contacted for comments, the Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Mr. Timothy Golu, confirmed to SUNDAY PUNCH that the joint committees indeed raised the issue of duplications and were set to resolve them on Monday.
Golu, who is a member of the House Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters, admitted that he was also aware that the heads of security agencies would be summoned.
“Yes, they are to appear over some duplications. However, I don’t know when the committees will require them to appear. A decision will have to be taken on Monday”, he stated.
Efforts to reach the Chairman of the House committee, Mrs. Aisha Dukku, failed.
SUNDAY PUNCH further gathered that the work of the electoral committees would drag the possible reconvening date of the National Assembly into September.
One member explained, “The issue of reconvening the National Assembly doesn’t even arise here yet. These committees must first conclude their work and report to the Committee on Appropriations.
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