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Court cases over 2019 elections hit 1700

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INEC budgets N1b for voter registration
• Explains hindrance to diaspora voting

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday, said that the number of court cases over the 2019 general election had risen to 1,700, with an average of N3 million to N4.5 million spent on each case.

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Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, told the Senate: “Each time anyone goes to court, INEC is joined, but we have to hire lawyers to defend us. We are not paying a fantastic fee, we are applying the Federal Ministry of Justice scale of fees.

“If, for instance, you have a case for governorship election before the Supreme Court, it’s a maximum of N4.5 million. We are almost getting close to 1700 pre-election and post-election cases in 2019 alone. Every day you hear people going to court and joining INEC, but we will continue to do what we can within available resources.”

The electoral body, which said it had completed all preparations to conduct elections in which Nigerians in the Diaspora could vote, urged Nigerians to wait till the National Assembly is ready to amend the Constitution and the appropriate laws to make the plan legal.

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“The commission is desirous of giving Nigerians living abroad the right to vote. After all, all our neighbouring countries do so. But it requires the amendment to the constitution and the Electoral Act for that to happen.
We have already worked out the document. Once the laws are amended today, we can roll out. We are ready. We have had several meetings with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) but we can’t go beyond what the laws provide,” Yakubu said.

On some groups who are always disenfranchised during elections, Yakubu admitted that the law should be amended to correct the situation.

“It’s not just those in the armed services, the police involved in election duty, journalists, INEC ad-hoc staff and some INEC staff don’t vote. The reason is that you are posted for election duty to places other than where you are registered, and the law says you vote where you are registered. So, you can pass some amendments to the Electoral Act to enable the affected people to vote,” he suggested.

Yakubu, who made the comments while defending the 2021 budgetary allocations to the commission at the Senate, also announced the commencement of another phase of voter registration which is expected to gulp not less than N1 billion.

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“For continuous voters’ registration, the commission intends to resume the exercise in the first quarter of 2021. And once we resume, it will be continuous for one and a half years, at least until six months to the next general election. In other words, the commission is not going to resume voters’ registration for a week, two weeks, or a month. We are working out the details,” he said.

The INEC also briefed the Senate on the need for its financial independence.

Yakubu told the lawmakers that the commission could not be independent unless it is financially independent, adding that there are some activities that happen that are time-bound which require the commission to act swiftly.

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He said the INEC Fund, which was established in 2010 to allow the commission to discharge those responsibilities, became useful some months ago when INEC was put under serious financial pressure.

“It was established in 2010 but there was no cause to spend from it, and from the last five years this commission did not spend from it.”

But what has happened now is that our budget for 2020 dropped to N40 billion from N45.5 billion in 2019. And as a result of the 10 per cent COVID cut, it further dropped to N36 billion in the middle of the year when we had already made preparation for expenditure”

“Therefore, since that fund is made for the rainy days, I informed the committee that the rainy day has come. So we are taking part in the fund to balance our budget for this year,” the INEC boss explained.

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