Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is so broke that it may not be able to pay staff salaries from next month.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, disclosed this to bewildered members of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, who visited INEC headquarters in Abuja, yesterday.
Dr. Abdulkadir Sulaiman, who represented Prof. Jega, said: “If we don’t do anything about it on time, we may not be able to pay salary by next month.”
Following this development, the chairman called on the legislators to quickly intervene and save the situation, else the commission’s aspiration of conducting the 2015 general election in line with international best practices would be a mirage.
He also told the visiting legislators, led by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Jerry Manwe, that the paucity of fund had drastically slowed down the pace of work on all the capital projects being executed by the commission.
According to him, no other release has reached INEC as the second quarter release did not come directly to the commission.
Jega said: “Of the N35 billion earmarked for the commission in the 2012 budget, only N10 billion was released to the commission in March. That was seven months ago.
“The second quarter of the money was released to the commission last month, September.”
“However, it was not sent directly to the commission, it was lodged in the Treasury Savings Account under the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. The commission is yet to access this fund.
“It has sent complaint to the Minister of Finance, requesting for exemption from the TSA scheme in view of the autonomy granted this commission in the 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act.
“The commission is still awaiting the Minister’s response. And in view of the fact that the N10 billion released to the commission is quite low, the commission has to suspend most of its projects, pending the time the remaining money is released.
He said the projects include renovation of INEC offices nationwide, printing of permanent voter cards, purchase of 100 KVA power generating sets in INEC offices nationwide, construction of residences of INEC Resident Commissioners, and electrification of state offices of INEC.
He commended the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters for finding time to visit the commission to find out things for themselves.
Jega said the commission was ready to cooperate with relevant bodies in ensuring that its operations were carried out as spelt out in the constitution.
Manwe said the revelation about the state of the commission by its leadership was worrisome.
He said his committee condemns Federal Government’s handling of the affairs of INEC in totality, stressing that an urgent letter would be sent to both the Minister of Finance and Accountant-General of the Federation to appear before the House to explain reasons behind the Federal Government’s position.
He said the committee was totally committed to assisting the commission conduct hitch-free elections in 2015.