The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said the commission is doing its best to avoid the mistakes of the past in preparing for the 2015 elections.
He said the elections may be jeopardised by paucity of funds because of the style the Presidency was using to fund the commission and the lack of sufficient appropriation from the National Assembly.
The INEC chairman spoke in Abuja at a two-day National Dialogue/stakeholders’ forum on Transparent, Credible, Free and Fair 2015 elections with the INEC, media, civil society groups, political party chairmen, political analysts and the public.
The forum was organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Reform of Government Institutions, headed by Matthew Omegara.
In a presentation, titled: 2015 Elections In Nigeria: Preparations and Challenges, Jega said the challenges ahead of the 2015 elections include “funding, insecurity, attitude of the political class,” and an “apathetic and inactive citizenry”.
Others, he said, are “delay in amendment to the legal framework, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units and prosecution of election offenders”.
He added: “In 2012 and 2013, the funding declined. As I speak with you, there is funding gaps to do the 2015 elections. But I know Mr President and National Assembly are doing their very best to address the funding gaps. There is appropriation challenge. Ideally, when we say INEC is independent, we should do everything possible to make it really independent.”
The INEC chairman said there is need for adequate budgetary allocation that would enable the commission to perform its statutory responsibilities without constraint.
Jega also complained about inadequate staffing and situating INEC’s state offices on local government premises.
He said: “We were given money in the first and second years to build but the funding seized. In all the countries, a lot of electoral requirements are treated expeditiously. Electoral funding should not be politicized, as everybody is talking about the money not what is being done.”
Jega said the Commission is trying its best to ensure that the 2015 election is better than that of 2011.
But Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie, took Jega up on the funding issue saying the National Assembly made supplementary appropriation for INEC prior to 2011 elections.
He said: “INEC is critical to the sustenance of democracy, and NASS has taken cognizance of the fact that INEC needs funds. Is it lack of appropriation or releases that is the problem?”
Jega said that the envelop system is a problem as well as the fact that INEC needs more funds.
Osagie replied that if INEC is being tied to an envelope system, then the problem is not from the NASS but the Presidency.
The Speaker of theHouse of Representatives, Hon, Aminu Tambuwal who was represented by the Minority Whip, Hon. Samson Osagie, in his speech noted that some of the challenges that may confront INEC in ensuring a free, fair, credible and transparent 2915 general elections include “the issue of transparency in the conduct of election s without fear or favour by not succumbing to any external influence or dictatorship, security of election results at all levels, returning and declaring the winners by respecting the choice of the people, issues of electronic rigging, snatching of ballot ones and papers, timely disposal of election cases etc”.