The humongous N242.4bn budget for 2019 elections
On July 17, 2018, President of the Senate Bukol Saraki read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari on a supplementary budget with a whooping price tag of N242.45 for the execution of the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as well as security agencies.
Buhari in the letter said the princely sum will be drawn from the 2018 and 2019 budgets. The breakdown of 2019 election spending proposal shows: Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC 2018 supplementary – N143, 512, 529, 4452019 budget – N45, 695, 015,438 Total: N189, 207, 544, 893, Office of the National Security Adviser 2018 supplementary – N3, 855, 500, 0002019 budget – N426, 000, 000 Total – N4, 281, 500,000, Department of State Security 2018 supplementary – N2, 903, 638, 0002019 budget – N9,309,644,455 Total – N12, 213, 282, 455, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps 2018 supplementary – N1, 845, 597, 0002019 budget – N1, 727, 997, 500Total – N3, 573, 534, 500, Nigeria Police 2018 supplementary – N11, 457, 417, 4322019 budget – N19, 083, 900, 000 Total – N30, 541, 317, 432, Nigeria Immigration Service 2018 supplementary – N530, 110, 0782019 budget – N2, 098,033, 142Total – N2, 628, 143, 320. The Total amount for the election 2018 ssupplementary – N164, 104, 792, 0652019 budget – N78, 314, 530, 535. Grand total: N242, 445, 322, 600
It was to be expected that the election budget was going to elicit divergent reactions, and it has. While some are of the opinion that the amount is inadequate considering the multi-sectoral agencies involved in conducting free and fair elections, many others have kicked against the huge amount in the face of prevailing economic realities.
Nigerians mostly on social media have criticised Buhari’s government for proposing such money for elections, describing it as a waste of resources. Others accused him of trying to siphon funds for his re-election bid.
@Iamonwoko “Are we all Nigerians traveling to the sky to cast our votes? When it comes to frivolities, money will be available. To fix refineries or build new ones, roads etc, they will remind us that past governments looted everything. God is watching!
Similarly, tweeting @Abrahamitebu “Waste of public fund. Elections in Nigeria are scams, total fraud.”@Shaev “People are hungry, see the amount you want to spend for rigging! Go ahead.”@Jpeace19 “Wow! In a country of over 195 million people with over 75% of its citizens unable to have 2 square meal a day, majority earning less than 30k a month and children out of school, #242.4bn for an election is the height of wickedness.”
These and many more are the opinions expressed by critics of the budget presentation.
However, at the benefit of hindsight, many Nigerians forget so soon that an estimated N1 trillion was spent by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political parties and candidates for the 2015 elections. Out of this amount INEC spent N108.8 billion in 2015.
Worried by this ugly development, concerned stakeholders have flayed high cost of elections in Nigeria with assertions that the high cost was the bedrock of the corruption that pervades the political system.
No doubt, Nigeria’s elections are among the most expensive in the world, with the cost soaring from a little above N1 billion in 1999 to over N200 billion in 2019.
It has been acknowledged that the country’s huge cost of elections has surpassed that of the world’s largest democracy. For example, India, with a population six times bigger than Nigeria spent less. Nigeria, with 67 million registered voters, spent $625 million during the 2015 elections, translating into $9.33 per voter, according to data prepared by the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS, in 2015.
This figure is higher than the $600 million the Electoral Commission of India, ECI, spent during the 2014 general elections in which 553.8 million people voted out of 815 million registered voters.
Similarly, the cost of conducting elections in Nigeria is also higher than those of bigger economies such as Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. Canada, for instance, spent $375 million on electoral expenditure where 17.5 million voted, while in United Kingdom spent £113 million during its 2010 parliamentary elections in which 45.6 million voted.
While it is the candid view of this paper that free and fair elections cost money due to logistics challenges especially in this part of the world, but the bottom line is that pervasive corruption that marred Nigeria’s public procurement process is largely responsible for the high cost of elections in Nigeria.
It is therefore high time Nigeria and Nigerians address public procurement process. Perhaps Nigerians could begin to think about using ATM cards or mobile number to vote so as to crash the cost of elections in Nigeria.