The National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved N143 billion for the commission to conduct the 2019 general election.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last month in his letter to the Senate, requested that N189.2 billion be released to INEC in tranches, with N143.5 billion to be released this year and N45.6 billion be released in in July next year.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

However, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in his presentation had demanded for the wholesale release of the entire N189.2 billion.

The Joint Committee, which held its deliberations today behind closed, had been deliberating on the INEC budget over the past week before finally arriving at its decision.

A source at the Legislative chambers confirmed that rather than allowing the public, including journalists covering the National Assembly to witness the session, the lawmakers conducted a closed-door session.

It was disclosed that after the co-Chairman, Suleiman Nazif, said the opening prayers and other members of the committee introduced themselves, a member moved a motion for the meeting to go into a closed-door session, the motion was seconded and passed.

The chairman ordered journalists to leave the hall, the doors of which were shut subsequently.

After their deliberations which lasted for about 40 minutes, the committee chairman announced that N143 billion would be approved for INEC in line with the president’s request.

Hon Nazif said: “The joint committee sat and has come up with the resolution to adopt the N143 billion presented by Mr. President. It is also the wish of this committee that INEC then present their budget of N143 billion as requested by Mr. President.

“Therefore, INEC has an opportunity to prioritise and this committee is ready to receive them tomorrow. This committee will be reconvening tomorrow by 1pm so that we can consider the presentation by INEC”, the lawmaker added.

However, he did not give any hint on when the N45 billion balance will be approved for the commission.

It would be recalled that over the past few weeks, the INEC budget had generated controversies, especially in the public space as feelers indicated that the National Assembly was not prepared to treat the budget with the urgency it deserves given the closeness of the election dates.

The INEC boss had justified the increase by N62 billion in the election budget over the N120 billion approved budget for 2015 elections to increase in the number of political parties as well as in registered voters, high cost of logistics, exchange rates variance, and increased constituencies, amongst others.