Abuja - The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has earmarked N1.4billion for the purchase of ballot boxes for the conduct of 2019 general elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakub, said this during the 2016 budget defence session before members of the House of Representative Committee on Electoral Matters and Political Parties Affairs on Monday in Abuja.
Yakub said that the commission intended to phase out the collapsible transparent ballot boxes and replace them with plastic ones. According to the INEC boss, there will be no need to use the transparent ballot boxes during the 2019 general elections.
He said that the commission was confronted with the inability of local manufacturers to deliver the required volume within the stipulated timeframe for elections, much as it was willing to patronise locally made products.
“Sometimes, it is easier said that we have manufacturers who have the capacity; but when you engage them, you realise that we may not have such capacity for volumes and this not only peculiar to elections.
“Immediately you try to produce something locally, somebody rushes to register a patent and claims ownership of that idea.
“Right now, we have litigations running into trillions of naira by people who said the patent for smart card reader is theirs.
“And they may get favourable judgment that requires us to pay some fantastic amount.
“So, while it is important for us to encourage our domestic producers, we are also careful about that because some of the procurement items are time bound.”
Yakubu, who did not mention the specific amount INEC would need to conduct the 2019 general elections, said that the commission was adopting strategic plans that would ensure a hitch-free exercise.
“We wouldn’t like to guess an amount; so, we want to go through this painstaking process of producing a strategic plan. “I think it is better for us to do the proper thing so that we approach the Executive and the National Assembly with a figure we can vouch for.
“And once it is approved, we don’t come back to request another supplementary figure.” The INEC boss expressed concern that five resident electoral commissioners (RECs) would retire by March, bringing the total number of states without RECs to 33.
Yakubu, who decried the high rate of attacks on INEC offices and officials across the country, said that 24 INEC offices were burnt between 2015 and date.
He said that the commission would require a supplementary budget to repair its stores in the zones to guarantee the protection of electoral materials ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Yakubu also said that the commission had earmarked N500million for the continuous voter registration across the country.
Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Aishatu Dukku emphasised the need for the commission’s 2017 budget to reflect public accountability and transparency.
“Election management bodies face the formidable challenge of ensuring that stakeholders have trust in the electoral process.
“The identification and adoption of best practices in electoral framework and administration have placed countries under pressure to introduce electoral reform measures.
“I am strongly advocating that this electoral reform measures form part of the budget of INEC. “It is important that the budget of INEC be made to show widespread public accountability and transparency of the commission,” Dukku said.