INEC Strategises for 2019 Elections, Says Use of National Identity Cards Not Feasible

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Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has disclosed that the electoral body has already commenced preparations for the 2019 general election, with a strategic plan already drawn up, while the financial implications are being calculated.

He also noted that the use of the National Identity cards for the polls, might not be feasible, as the ongoing harmonisation of databases is yet to be concluded.

Yakubu, who spoke during the budget defence session of the commission’s N45 billion 2017 budget proposal before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters yesterday, said the early preparation is to ensure readiness for the polls.

The committee is chaired by Hon. Aisha Dukku (Gombe APC).

He added that the strategic plan for the general election, is already being discussed at the three levels of government, particularly with the executive arm of government.

The implementation of the strategic plan, would likely result in the submission of a supplementary budget request later in 2017, Yakubu added.

“At this point, we cannot put a figure on the budget for the elections (2019) until we complete the process of validating the strategic plan. Therefore, we are likely to approach the executive and the National Assembly for supplementary budget in this 2017. The supplementary aspect should incorporate something for the elections and in 2018, we will have it in the main proposals,” he added.

N20.9 billion of the commission’s N45 billion budget is proposed for personnel costs, N2.3 billion proposed for capital projects, while N19.1 billion is proposed for elections that would hold in 2017.

“Fortunately, we do not have many elections this year. Apart from Anambra State, where there will be a governorship election, there are no numerous elections,” he said.

The commission, in 2016, expended about N24 billion on elections, including re-run elections, across the country, the INEC boss added.

Speaking on the proposed use of the identity cards, the INEC helmsman noted that there is a policy in place, mandating all agencies with individual data bases, to harmonise such data with the national identity card.

The exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the Vice President.

“That process has not been concluded. INEC today has the largest data base in the country with 70million registered voters. That is a huge figure, much larger than when you talk about the population of many African countries put together,” Yakubu said.

Hon. Jonathan Gaza Gbewfi (Nassarawa PDP) noted that while the strategic plan in early preparation for the 2019 polls, is commendable, the legislature ought to have been consulted.

“We are the elected representatives of the people. Those in the executive are mostly appointed officers. You have to start talking with the representatives of the people first on whatever plan you have for elections,” he lawmaker said.