The meeting between Senators and members of the House of Representatives over budget for Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, ended in a deadlock. INEC is seeking budgetary approval of N189 billion to conduct 2019 general elections.
The meeting came to a stalemate as the lawmakers could not agree on the figures presented to both chambers of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari and that of INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
Against this backdrop, the lawmakers have summoned the INEC boss to appear before the joint committe of the Senate and House of Representatives today to throw light on the grey areas that had been discovered in the budget proposal. While Buhari requested N143 billion for the commission, Yakubu’s was N189 billion.
According to the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), the joint committee will make its position known in a statement at the end of today’s meeting.
Addressing journalists, yesterday, in Abuja after the meeting, which started 3.30 pm and ended 4.30 pm, Nazif assured Nigerians that as lawmakers, they would ensure that INEC conduct credible, free and fair elections in 2019.
He said: “As we are all aware, Wednesday, we invited the chairman of INEC, who was in the National Assembly to address the House of Representatives as well as the Senate. And today (yesterday), our duty and responsibility was to try to harmonise what transpired between both houses and ensure that we cross the t’s and dot the i’s.
“The whole meeting was called consequent upon the letter of Mr President requesting supplementary and virement for the general elections of 2019.
“We have done what we needed to have done. And we have realised that there are a little bit of 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 (today) at11am.
“From there, this committee will make a press statement and we will inform Nigerians of our position. I want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that this joint committee is committed to ensuring credible, free and fair elections for 2019.”
But the disparity led to a stalemate when the committees at a joint sitting wanted to approve the budget estimates, as some of the members argued that approval should be solely based on request by the President, while others argued for N189 billion approval INEC sought. Consequently, they resolved to summon the INEC boss for more clarifications on N189 billion budget proposal.
Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
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