THE House of Representatives, on Wednesday, dashed the high expectation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of early passage of its budget for the 2011 general election and voters’ registration by failing to pass the budget in line with Tuesday’s deadline earlier set by INEC.

The Senate had passed the INEC budget on Tuesday, although it slashed the figure to N87.7 billion. But the House said it could not “rubber stamp” the INEC’s budget proposal, insisting that it had to work on it.

Although the House passed the N89 billion required by INEC for first and second readings with speed after setting aside part of its rules to that effect, it eventually referred the bill to its committees on appropriation and finance for further scrutiny.

The representatives had cut short their two-month recess to consider the INEC proposal, just as the Speaker, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, indicated the preparedness of the House to pass the budget today.

The House Leader, Honourable Tunde Akogun, led the debate on budget and appealed to members to approve the proposal in view of the challenges of compiling a voter register.

“History beckons on us today as we cut short our recess to come to the aid of the INEC in its bid to conduct credible, free and fair election that could be acceptable both at home and abroad,” he said.
Former leader of the House, Honourable Abdul Ningi, said it could not be stampeded into approving the budget without proper scrutiny, adding that some of items on the proposal were actually questionable.

He noted that some items on the proposal had already been considered in the 2010 appropriation bill, adding that it would be wrong for members to pretend that all was well with the proposal, notwithstanding the time frame.

In the same vein, the Minority Leader, Honour-able Ali Ndume, argued that the proposal should be properly scrutinised, although he made a case for passage of the budget, most especiallybecause of the need to purchase the direct data capture machines directly from the manufacturer.

Former speaker of the House, Honourable Patricia Etteh, also pleaded for passage of the INEC budget, while urging her colleagues to carry out whatever scrutiny they deemed necessary and pass the budget in time.

Honourable Tergu Tsegba cited the example of an item on the proposal which asked for N3 billion for transportation and another item on the 2010 appropriation bill which, he said, had a provision of N4 billion for logistics.

Honourable Igo Aguma picked holes on the N260 million for hotel accommodation for Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for a period of three months, as against the 28 days stipulated by the civil service law, just as Tsegba criticised the N3 billion voted by INEC for transportation and the N4 billion earmarked for logistics.

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