By Adedayo Akinwale
The members of the House of Representatives Committee on the Independent National Commission (INEC), yesterday had a hot argument with their chairman, Hon. Aisha Dukku, during the presentation of the 2020 budget performance and 2021 budget proposal.
Dukku claimed that the 2021 national budget proposal submitted by the President to the National Assembly for passage is not different from the 2020 budget and suggested that the committee should approach it from both process and content perspectives.
She added that the door of the committee would remain open to the INEC on any issue that would aid the commission to meet its operational commitments, adding that both the committee and the electoral body are partners in progress to strengthen the country’s electoral process and aid the INEC in discharging its functions.
However, as soon as Dukku finished her address and ushered in the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmou Yakubu, to defend the commission’s 2020 budget performance and the 2021 budget proposals, a member of the committee, Hon. Solomon Bob, raised a point of order, saying that the members were just receiving copies of the commission’s 2021 budget presentation.
Bob was of the opinion that they ought to have been given time to go through the document in order to know the appropriate questions to ask, stressing that the committee did not carry out any oversight function on the implementation of the 2020 budget since it was passed into law.
He said: “I want to draw the chairman and the visitors by way of point of order. This committee met with the INEC team and approved the 2020 budget. As we speak, we just got copies of the 2021 budget. In law we called this dumping.
“But before that, we have had no opportunity to oversee the 2020 budget, no oversight of any kind to gauge or access the level of implementation or performance of that budget.
“We are now being called upon to oversee another one. To me, I think that things need to be done properly and I’m saying this because there are a lot of discontents amongst my colleagues. I can see even the vice chairman is not here.”
While Bob was till speaking, the chairman of the committee interjected and ruled him out of order and requested Yakubu to go ahead with the presentation of INEC’s 2020 budget performance and the 2021 budget estimates.
Dukku shouted: “Listen to me please, Hon. Solomon. This 2020 has been a year of COVID-19. I rule you out of order, I am the chairman. The chairman of INEC, please present your proposal.”
It was at this point that the INEC chairman went ahead with the presentation of the budget performance for the 2020 budget performance.
After the INEC’s chairman presentation, another member of the committee, Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, said there was need for the committee to go into an executive session with INEC delegation to avoid members asking unnecessary questions about the 2020 budget performance of the electoral body.
Nkem-Abonta said: “Chairman, to avoid unnecessary questions, the essence of going into executive session is to give us a more efficient and more robust approach to 2021 budget. I have a conviction that in this executive session, 2021 will not be the issue. What is important is the 2020 that had gone; where we have most questions.”
Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf aligned himself with Nkem-Abonta that the committee should hold an executive session with the INEC chairman and his team on the 2020 budget performance.
Tajudeen stated: “Just to align with what Hon. Abonta said, the 2021 is just the proposal. 2020 is already implemented. If there are questions it is better to ask them during the executive session.”
Sensing the mood of the lawmakers, Dukku ruled that the committee should go into an executive session immediately.