The chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has declared that funding of the commission has been politicised and is being viewed with suspicion.
He further decried the envelope system of funding for the commission, adding that the solution to recurring gaps in election funding is for elections in the country to be treated as a cycle and not events.
Jega’s position was contained in a statement by his chief press secretary, Kayode Idowu, while clarifying comments by the INEC chairman who made a presentation before the House of Representatives Committee on Reform of Government Institutions on Monday.
According to Jega, when elections are treated as a cycle, there will be consistent and even funding of the Election Management Body (EMB) over the years in-between elections, rather than provision of quantum sums in election years as is presently the practice.
He said that this is important because election funding has been politicised by many Nigerians, such that the huge sums provided to the EMB in election years are viewed with suspicion.
Jega said if elections are funded as a cycle, essential requirements for the electoral process would be met on a progressive and incremental basis in a way that would ensure the operational efficiency of INEC, enhance its independence and guarantee the integrity of elections.
He said: “These reforms accounted for some milestones that we achieved in 2011, and we have really come a long way since that time.” But he identified funding as one of the challenges facing the commission as it prepares for the 2015 general elections. Other challenges, according to him, include the security situation in some parts of the country, and the low level of citizens’ enlightenment.
Citing an instance of how funding gaps hamper the commission’s operations, Jega noted that the inadequacy of storage facilities for INEC’s Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines contributed to the malfunctioning of some of the machines being lately deployed for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) across the country.
He said: “There were cases of equipment failure in some polling units, and that fuelled anxiety and disappointment among many people who wanted to register. But we had appropriate intervention measures. Where equipment failed, we were able to replace…Some people were angry with us because of the challenges we faced; but I must say that some of these challenges are inevitable. We purchased the equipment in 2010 for the 2011 registration, and we have not purchased any equipment since then. And it is a function of funding. Of course, we have enough equipment; we procured 132,000 pieces of equipment for the registration in 2011. The major challenge was storage. For the last three years, every time we prepared our budget, we requested funding to create facility in order to appropriately store these equipment. Regrettably, we never had this funding requirement met, and the way the equipment were stored really left much to be desired. A lot of the challenges we faced had to do with the fact that you are dealing with equipment that are more than four years old; and anyone who uses a laptop knows that even with the best of storage, its functionality reduces over time. How much more if there are challenges of storage.