Nigeria’s election umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday estimated its budget for the 2019 general elections at nearly ₦250bn. This will be double the amount it cost to conduct the 2015 elections.
Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, the Electoral Commissioner representing Anambra State, made this known while speaking on behalf of the INEC Chairman at an event organised by the coalition of civil society groups in Abuja.
Why the expensive budget?
INEC’s budget for the 2019 general election will take into account the current economic realities in the country. According to Ibeanu, part of these economic realities is the high exchange rates for the dollar. He stated that the commission’s intention to introduce some innovations into the election processes may also contribute to the estimated expenses. More so, the newly proposed [somewhat] staggered election method will equally contribute to the expenses, as more money would have to be spent.
Speaking further on the factors that could contribute to the budget increase, Professor Ibeanu said that money would be spent on sensitising the general public on proper electioneering processes. He also highlighted the fact that the number of eligible voters have increased to nearly eighty million, even as a total number of sixty-eight political parties have so far declared the interest to participate in the election.
In his own words:
If you look at the last budgetary estimates we do not need any science around it at all. My estimate is that about 50 percent of the INEC cost involves spending money abroad. That means that it will be affected by the exchange rates. Now you can do a computation of 40-50 percent at ₦150 per a dollar in 2015 and ₦360 to a dollar right now. You can imagine what the present picture will be like. And this will enable us have an idea of what the present estimate will be.
But I can assure you that INEC has done everything possible to keep the budget for the 2019 elections consistent with the existing realities in the country.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission spent about ₦120 billion to conduct the 2015 general election.
How does Foreign Exchange come into the mix?
As Professor Ibeanu implied above, exchange rates will be a major determining factor the 2018 INEC budget. This is because much of the materials used during Nigeria’s general elections are imported. While this is no news, it is unfortunate that sensitive materials for the conduct of a general elections [as important as Nigeria’s], get to be imported. The security implications asides, the trend underlies Nigeria’s over-dependence on the importation of goods and services, and the many adverse effects it has on its economic development.
It will interest you to see a list of the materials that are often imported by INEC for election purposes. Apart from the newly introduced electronic card readers which were used during the last election, the electoral umpire also imports other materials such as- ballot boxes, polling booths, permanent voter’s cards and even indelible ink. This therefore raises the question as to whether some of the materials cannot be locally manufactured.
INEC has in the past defended its preference to import electoral materials, citing security concerns. But that notwithstanding, the importation of such sensitive materials costs so much and poses such a disgrace to our statehood. It is therefore imperative to consider a change in this trend.
Who stands to benefit from the estimated ₦250bn budget?
Although much details about the budget are not readily available, it is safe to assume that a large portion of it will go into the importation of electoral materials. Therefore, bearing in mind the current exchange rates, and also bearing in mind that quite a number of the electoral materials will be imported, up to ₦1000bn could be expended in this regard. This will in turn benefit foreign companies from whom the materials are purchased and imported.
Much of the money may also be expended on acquiring the best IT systems/solutions for voter registration/review. During the 2011 General Election, this cost about ₦54.911bn. Bearing in mind the current economic clime, therefore, this could cost about ₦70bn this time around. And depending on which company the job is contracted, those in the ICT sector stand the chance of benefiting from this.
Other beneficiaries include INEC training personnel, whose function it is to sensitise the public on acceptable electioneering processes. Judging from past trends and also putting into consideration the current economic conditions, this could cost more than ₦2bn. Logistics and transportation may cost nearly ₦5bn. In the same vein, utility vehicles would gulp another ₦5bn.
Much of the budget would also be expended on hotel accommodations, allowances for INEC staff, servicom, etc.