Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) has called on the National Assembly to pass the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) budget without further delay, saying the delay may jeopardise the preparations for the 2019 elections.
The ISDMG faulted the delay of the INEC budget by the Executive arm of the government, alleging that the budget was submitted to it since January 2018 by INEC.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a one-day meeting on the 2019 Election Budget Empasse held in Abuja, the group warned that all forms of intrigues and politics associated with the budget should cease immediately for national interest and good.
The stakeholders are drawn from different groups, which include the civil society, the political class, the media and citizens, among others.
They also condemned in strong term, the use of thugs and irresponsible police and other security personnel to harass citizens, INEC officials and disruption of elections, adding that the development portrays Nigeria in bad light before the international community.
The ISDMG decried the delay of the INEC budget by the Executive arm of the government, alleging that the budget was submitted to it since January, 2018 by INEC.
According to the group, the logjam regarding the INEC budget is unacceptable and unnecessary as the Executive arm ought to have submitted the budget to the National Assembly long before now.
In the communiqué signed by Dr. Chima Amadi for the ISDMG; Faith Nwadishi of the Centre for Transparency Advocacy; Abdul Mahmud of Public Interest Lawyers League, and Sheriff Mulade, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, among others, the group urged INEC to continue to be proactive by submitting their budget proposal in good time in a transparent and open manner.
The group also stressed the urgent need to review the appropriation process, especially when it involves the needs of INEC, in view of the importance and role the electoral body plays in the stabilisation of the country’s democracy.
According to the group, “We note the hard fact that the INEC budget is not like contracts that can be hidden from public purview as activities of INEC are open and easily verifiable by citizens, stakeholders and in fact, any interested party. “
While commending the openness of the budget process and urging INEC to continue with the practice, the group noted that this should be encouraged.
The group urged Nigerians to support INEC as it strives to conduct credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria.
The communiqué further read: “That suspension of elections where there are infringements and security breaches as was done in the Rivers State constituency bye-election to protect lives and property and the integrity of the electoral process and elections should now be the norm.
“All perpetrators of election violence must be severely punished according to the law to serve as deterrence to others.
“The allegations of budget padding draw from mischief or an inadequate appreciation of the issues involved, therefore ,we recommend that all parties should strive to verify issues and INEC should operate an open door policy for these clarification.”
The group also recommended that stakeholders should utilise the quarterly stakeholders dialogue by the INEC chairman to seek information and clarify issues.
While condemning the actions of the police and other security agencies that were used by unscrupulous politicians to disrupt the elections thereby putting the lives of INEC staff and citizens in danger, the election monitoring group described the action as bizarre, shameful, embarrassing, disgraceful and condemnable.
It however, commended INEC for taking quick measures to suspend the election so as to protect the integrity of the election .