By Eric Teniola
In 1999, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), under Justice Ephraim Akpata, spent over N32 billion to conduct the 1999 general elections. At that time, there was no National Assembly. The approving authority then was the 33-man Provisional Ruling Council headed by General Abdusalami Abubakar (GCFR).
In 2003, the now defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC), under Chief Abel Goubadia, spent over N60.5 billion to conduct the general elections.
In 2007, INEC, under Professor Maurice Iwu, spent over N74.2 billion to conduct the general elections.
In 2011, under Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC spent over N89.2 billion.
In 2015, under the same Professor Attahiru Jega, the Independent National Electoral Commission spent about N120 billion to conduct the general elections. The breakdown was as follows: N4 billion for vehicles, N3 billion for collapsible ballot boxes, N5.4 billion for the review of the voters’ register, N10.8 billion for operations (personnel cost requirements and cost for the registration of voters nationwide), N222 million for hotel accommodation for state INEC commissioners, and N3.66 billion for logistics and transport. Also, N502.5 million for the training of staff for voters’ registration, N10.3 million for the printing of the voters’ register, N5.4 billion to clean up the electronic voters’ register after the election, N155.5 million for Servicom, N64.78 million for electoral hazard allowancse, N222 million for voters’ education, and the display of the voters’ register across the 774 local government areas.
In October last year, the National Assembly passed a budget of N242.2 billion for the conduct of this year’s elections. Addressing members of the National Assembly committee then, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, defended the budget as what would be enough to conduct the polls. He said that out of N189 billion, N134.4 billion would be used as operations costs, while N6 billion was budgeted for feeding security officials during the elections. He added that N27.5 billion will be used for the elections’ technological costs, and N22.7 billion will be for administrative costs.
Aishatu Dukku, chairman of the INEC committee in the House of Representatives, said the lawmakers would be transparent in considering details of the budget. “It is important for us to approach the budget proposal from both process and content perspectives,” she said, adding that: “It is only by so doing that one can begin to unravel the intricacies of the entire range of issues involved.” Moreover, she also said the committee hoped the government would address issues that had to do with elections funding, “unlike the previous budgets that were not productive in the entire planning of elections.”
The Commission subsequently met with the Senate committee on INEC over the same matter.
At the Senate meeting, Professor Yakubu said the increase in the budget — as against the N120 billion requested for the 2015 elections — was necessitated by the increase in the number of political parties, registered voters, as well as a higher naira to foreign exchange rate.
The Commission has so far registered 91 political parties, as against the 44 that were in place in 2015. “Also associated with political parties, is monitoring of party primaries, congresses and conventions. There is also the processing of nominations. We have 12,558 constituencies, which means INEC has to process about 141,778 nominations”, he added.
“We also have more electoral constituencies. Right now we have about 68 more constituencies and there is also increase in the number of registered voters. We’ll need to open more voting points, engage more ad-hoc staff, supervisors and returning officers” he said, stating that as at August 11, 2018, the Commission had registered 12.1 million voters.
In justifying the huge cost of the elections, the INEC chairman said in December 2018 in Abuja that the increase in the cost of elections in the country was also partly due to security and logistic reasons.
At a validation workshop on the study of the cost of elections in West Africa, organised by ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), in Abuja, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said the study was part of ECONEC’s two-year Work Plan (2016-2018), borne out of the serious concern of all electoral commissions in the subregion about the spiraling costs of conducting elections.
Professor Yakubu said: “With every cycle, the cost of elections keeps rising, making many countries unable to fund critical aspects of the electoral process as a sovereign responsibility.
“The ever-rising cost of voter registration and the compilation of a credible voters’ register, recruitment and training of electoral officials, provision of electoral logistics, election security, civic and voter education, procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, deployment of electoral technology, undertaking regular engagement with stakeholders and handling of pre-election and post-election litigations are enormous.
“The task of meeting such extensive expenditure has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in our region. It is against this background that the Governing Board of ECONEC inaugurated this study to explore what we can do as election managers, working together with national stakeholders and development partners, to find ways to reduce the cost of elections without jettisoning new innovations or compromising the quality, transparency and credibility of elections.”
According to him, ECONEC had undertaken needs assessments, solidarity and mid-term review missions to several member states, and: “The objective is for Election Management Bodies, EMBs, in our sub-region to share experience, expertise and even pool resources not only with a view to ensuring best practice through peer review but also in order to reduce the cost of conducting elections among our member states.”
Yet, in spite of the huge amount of money allocated to INEC, some of the elections conducted were inconclusive.
In January this year all the thirty-six states of the Nigerian federation, including the federal capital, Abuja shared N173.8 billion from the federation account. If we add what INEC has been allocated since 1999 to conduct the six elections held so far, it will be over N617 billion. That amount of money is enough to build the necessary infrastructure that the country presently lacks. No doubt this our democracy is becoming a burden. We are talking of a nation without energy, no basic infrastructure, bad road networks, etc.
The elections burden has become too much for our economy. We can’t continue this way.
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.