*Says ASUU strike won’t affect Ekiti, Osun elections
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has proposed the sum of N305 billion for the conduct of the 2023 general election.
This was contained in the commission’s Election Project Plan (EPP) document made available to newsmen during the INEC media quarterly meeting ahead of the 2023 general election.
The is coming as the Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has stated categorically that the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would not affect the participatory roles of the university lecturers in any of the elections.
According to a copy of the EPP booklet obtained by THISDAY, the commission said it would need N305 billion to conduct the 2023 general election.
EPP Committee document gave a breakdown of what each department of the commission would require as its budget for the 2023 general election.
According to the EPP documents, INEC has 23 departments and directorates.
INEC said for instance that “for established and stable democracies, the average cost per voter is pegged at $1 to $3. In transitional democracies, it ranges from $4 to $8, while the cost is fixed at $9 and above in post-conflict and some transitional democracies.”
Because of this, the commission said that elections tend to be more costly in nascent democratic countries.
Accordingly, INEC has put the cost per voter for the 2023 election at an estimate of $5.39, with a target of 100 million registered voters for the election, using the N565 to $1 parallel market exchange rate the commission quoted in its EPP document.
As a result, the actual figure is N304.54 billion, representing a 61.37 per cent increase over what was spent to conduct the 2019 general election.
The EPP report said that INEC spent N189.2 billion to conduct the last general election, explaining that the cost per voter was fixed at $6.24 at an exchange rate of N305 with a total of 84 million registered voters.
In real terms, the cost per voter for the 2023 election reduced compared to 2019 ($5.39 against $6.24 in 2019), but the exchange rate has skyrocketed since the last general election. In addition, the increase in the number of registered voters — one of the determinants for planning election budgets — and the creation of 56,873 new polling units, among others, may also account for the increase in the proposed budget for the 2023 election.
An analysis of the 2023 proposed election budget shows that nine items account for 76.68 per cent of the total budget. Procurement of accreditation devices will take the bulk — 34.51 per cent of the entire budget, while provision for run-off elections is 8.89 per cent of the budget. Honoraria for ad hoc staff, logistics, and printing of ballot papers cover 7.79 per cent, 7.54 per cent, and 6.78 per cent, respectively.
On funding the 2023 election budget, INEC explained the federal government would provide the required funds for the commission to cover the fixed and direct costs of elections.
INEC further explained that although it is not reflected either in the fixed budget of the commission or in the core costs for the conduct of elections, it will also receive support from development partners for some of its electoral activities such as training, capacity building, civic and voter education, production of information, education and communication materials, and engagement with stakeholders. It said all these are geared towards strengthening the integrity of the electoral process, promoting citizens’ participation, and enhancing advocacy for inclusivity concerning women, youths, persons with disability and other marginalised groups.
According to EPP, “for the 2023 election, INEC has projected 100 million registered voters, proposing N305 billion to conduct the election. With the country’s declining voter turnout rate, the possibility of a huge waste of funds is quite concerning. To prevent another situation of huge resources going to waste as a result of lower voter turnout, the electoral commission may need to adopt workable measures to ensure more participation at the 2023 polls.”
The EPP documents said that INEC will spend not less than N239.2bn on procuring voting materials and vehicles that will be used in the 2023 general election.
It also said that N239.2bn, which constitutes 78.44 per cent of its N305billion budget, would be spent on 10 critical items which included ballot papers, operational vehicles, ballot boxes, allowances of ad hoc workers, the printing of result sheets, logistics and procurement of accreditation devices.
Part of the proposal in the N239.2billion budget is the N27.1billion set aside by the commission for possible run-off elections, including the one for the presidential poll.
A breakdown of the document, 2023 EPP indicates that the highest single component will be the procurement of accreditation devices which will gulp N105.2billion. This also constitutes 34.51 per cent of the total election budget of N305bn.
The allowance for ad hoc workers, who will be more than one million people, is pegged at N23.7billion while N23billion was set aside for election logistics expenses which include the movement, deployment and retrieval of men and materials for the elections.
INEC will also spend N20.6billion on the printing of ballot papers and N12.7billion on the procurement of non-sensitive materials. The commission set aside N9.5billion for the printing of result sheets, N7.8billion for the procurement of ballot boxes and a separate N5.39billion for the same purpose. The electoral body will also spend N3.9billion on the procurement of operational vehicles.
INEC is also expected to conduct governorship elections in Ekiti State in June and Osun State in July, while the 2023 general election will commence in February 2023.
Fielding questions from journalists during the quarterly session with media, the INEC chairman said that the commission’s engagement with university teachers was not based on ASUU but individual level.
“We met INEC in 2018 during an understanding of rules of engagement as returning officers during elections and it was the understanding that their participation during elections was not based on belonging to ASUU but on the individual strength and capacity of each of the persons we are engaging and ASUU was not part of it, though they belong to ASUU as a union.
“On that basis, I will tell you that their lecturers’ involvement in election issues as returning officers does not involve ASUU and therefore will pose no threat to our elections in Ekiti and Osun states and the 2023 general election,” he added.