This Day (Lagos)

7 January 2014

Nigeria: Costing the 2015 Elections

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"The 2015 election should never be about funding, but on how we can have a free and fair election where votes will count. Not the type of shenanigans that took place in the name of election in Anambra State," Agbaje said.

He argued that the financial demands of the body were rather wasteful, saying "What on earth does INEC need $515m for; another aimless jamboree? $7 per voter? How many voters do actually turn out for elections? What happens to the $7 of those voters who do not turn out? And how did INEC arrive at $7?

"Electoral fraud has now been extended to INEC funding fraud. INEC's concern should be how to conduct a meaningful and credible election and not money. The previous money INEC got in respect of past woeful elections, what became of them? It's more money, more fraud and woeful elections results. INEC's priority now should be on relevant logistics for the conduct of credible election. Nothing more," Agbaje said. During Jega's presentation, Mark, who was represented by the Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, specified that the conduct of a credible election is paramount as it would confer legitimacy to elected officials. "If elections are not credible, the public will not see those elected as authentic but they would be seen as impostors. If elections are credible, those elected would be regarded as authentic."

He therefore admonished Jega and INEC to take a cue from the recent Anambra governorship election and "do a postmortem, so that we can improve on the identified failings during the election as we move towards 2015″.

Generally, it is believed that INEC under Jega has been receiving so much money for elections. There are also those who are already apprehensive that with the benefit of hindsight, the current figure for 2015 general election might escalate as it was during the 2011 election.

The cost of the 2011 general election, it would be recalled, was put at a staggering N470.78 billion, which represented about 1.9 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Several international observers referred to the electoral process as very expensive and among world records in terms of costly elections.

Controversy over the cost of elections is not new. In 2007, INEC submitted a supplementary budget of N19.7 billion to the House of Representatives as a result of its delay in submitting to the budget office on time. This was followed by outcries. Then Special Adviser to the president on Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit, Professor Adekunle Wahab, criticised INEC for inflating its budget by N34million. He reminded the legislators that its original budget of N70billion forwarded to the budget office for 2006 budget was slashed to N52billion.

"Most people accused us of removing the butter from their bread. When the butter is too much on the bread, it becomes difficult to know whether you want to eat bread or butter". Also in 2007, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Alhaji Umar Abubakar, queried why N3billion was set aside for the purchase of ballot boxes in the supplementary budget, after same amount was approved for the same item in the 2006 budget.

Piqued by the huge public funds that would be wasted if the funds were approved for INEC, and the fact that the people always feel shortchanged by the outcomes of most elections, many are grumbling. Their concern is not just about the cost of the election, but more of a demand for value for money. The only way this could be achieved, observers thought, is by giving the people free, fair and credible elections. And where this is not so, INEC should make bold to declare that such elections are not acceptable.

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