N189bn polls budget: NASS committee meeting deadlocked

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The national assembly joint committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has re-invited the commission’s chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, to appear before it to further clarify discrepancies noticed in its 2019 election budget.

This is as a result of the inability of members of the joint committee from the Senate and the House of Representatives to reconcile disparities between the N189 billion budgets submitted by the electoral body and the N143 billion contained in the president’s letter to the national assembly on the same subject.

Punch reports that the chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, announced this after a closed-door session of the joint committee on Thursday.

The INEC chairman is expected to appear before the joint committee to make further clarifications on the details of the commission’s budget.

A heated argument between two members of the committee, Senators Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) and Mohammed Hassan (PDP, Yobe South) contributed in no small measure to the stalemate.

While Omo-Agege wanted the committee to restrict itself to giving approval to the N189 billion requested by the INEC chairman, Hassan urged his colleagues to consider the N143bn request as contained in President Buhari’s letter

It was the failure to find a common solution that led to the stalemate and the decision to re-invite the INEC chairman to give further clarifications.

After Thursday’s session, Nazif, told reporters: “As we are all aware, yesterday (Wednesday), we invited the chairman of INEC, who was in the National Assembly and who addressed the House of Representatives as well as the Senate.

“And today, our duty and responsibility were to try to harmonise what transpired yesterday between both houses and ensure that we cross the “Ts’ and dot the I’s.

“The whole meeting was called consequent upon the letter of Mr. President requesting supplementary budget and virement for the General Election of 2019.

“We have done what we needed to have done. And we have realised that there are a few differences. In view of that, it is the opinion of members of this joint committee that we invite the chairman of INEC for further clarifications tomorrow at 11 am.”

He said when the committee meets with the INEC chairman on Friday (today) it would be in a position to make public its decision.

“I want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that this joint committee is committed to ensuring credible, free and fair elections for 2019,” he said.

It would be recalled that that the Nazif-led committee on INEC had on Wednesday expressed concerns over discrepancies in the budget presented by INEC and one contained in a letter written by President Muhammadu Buhari.

These discrepancies were brought to light at a budget defence session between the senate committee and Yakubu.

The INEC chairman had presented a budget of N189. 2 billion for the 2019 elections, while President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter to the senate on July 17, 2018, presented a budget request of N143.5 billion for the 2019 elections.

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