The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday ruled out electronic and diaspora voting in the 2019 general elections.
The electoral umpire told the Senate that until the Constitution was amended and necessary logistics put in place, the commission cannot delve into electronic and diaspora voting.
It said electronic and diaspora voting do not only lack constitutional backing but were also expensive to execute.
The commission said work was in progress to develop a strategic plan on the financial requirements for the 2019 polls.
INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu spoke when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance to defend the commission’s 2017 budget.
The committee demanded to know the preparedness of the commission for the 2019 general elections.
A member of the committee, Senator Yakubu Abubakar, wanted to know if INEC would key into the reported breakthrough of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), in the invention of electronic voting machine in the 2019 general election.
Yakubu said for the past three years, INEC’s annual budget had stood at N45 billion.
He said the commission was yet to know how much the 2019 general election would gulp.
He said INEC’s purse had been deeply drained following “unscheduled elections” in the last one year caused mainly by deaths of 13 national and state assembly members.
He said: “For instance, in the last one year, we have conducted 13 unscheduled by-elections caused by deaths of some members of national and state assembly, meaning that on the average, a member of the national or state assembly dies every month.”
Chairman of the committee, John Owan Enoh, explained that the purpose of the session was to know the commission’s revenue framework before approving them.
The commission is to spend N19.1 billion for elections this year, Yakubu said while presenting the commission’s N45 billion 2017 budget before the Aisha Dukku- headed House Committee on Electoral Matters yesterday,
According to him, INEC has drawn up a strategic plan in preparation for the 2019 general election, while working out the financial implication.
The early preparation, he said, would ensure readiness for the polls, with the strategic plan already being discussed at the three levels of government.
Yakubu also said with harmonisation of databases, yet to be concluded. the use National Identity cards for the polls, might not be feasible,
A supplementary budget request would be submitted for the Implementation of the strategic plan, Yakubu said.
His words: “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.”
“About 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.
He said in 2016, the commission, spent about N24 billion on elections, including re-run.
On use of identity cards for elections, Yakubu said there was a policy in place, mandating agencies with individual data bases, to harmonise such data with the national identity card and that the Office of the Vice President was coordinating the exercise.
“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”.
A member of the committee, Jonathan Gaza Gbewfi commended the early preparation for the 2019 polls, but however observed that the legislature ought to have been consulted on the strategic plan.
“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,” Gbewfi said.