The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Wednesday allayed fears in the certain quarters that the 2015 general election would break up the country.
Tambuwal disclosed this in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, while speaking at a public lecture, titled: â€˜Challenges of Fraud-Free Elections Under a Democratic Dispensationâ€™ and book launch on fraud -free election, which was organised by a non-governmental organisation-Mustapha Akanbi Foundation.
The foundation was established by the former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC), Justice Mustapha Akanbi(rtd).
According to the speaker, â€œThe 2015 elections are by the corner, and already there is so much talk about how the conduct of that election can make or mar not only our democracy but our unity. Let me say here that the unity of this country does not depend on the outcome of any election.â€
Tambuwal said: â€œWe have past that level. Since 1999, it seems that every time we have an election, politicians and ethnic jingoists try to overheat the polity unnecessarily and cause a lot of tension in the land. We must stop seeing everything as the end of our union.
He added: â€œThere is no doubt that the coming election will have critical bearing on the growth of our democracy. A fraud-free election is therefore a big step towards restoring peopleâ€™s confidence in the electoral process and deepening our democracy. It will also give conclusive proof of our ability to face the challenges of nation building.â€
The speaker also called for adequate funding of the national electoral body for the 2015 elections in order to achieve free, fair and credible elections.
â€œNow the 2014 appropriation bill is before the National Assembly and talking about a truly Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), you need to fund the electoral body to be able to carry out its all-important assignment of conducting election.
â€œHowever what we have before us as the total sum required by INEC according to the budget office is N45billion whereas INEC itself is requesting for about N63.8billion to conduct proper election.
â€œThis is what INEC is seeking to conduct a free, fair and credible election. We have before us the proposal of N45billion instead of N63.8billion. Therefore there is a deficit of about N19billion. Until we are able to meet this demand and give INEC what is required, then we are preparing…donâ€™t read my body language,â€ he said.
Tambuwal also said a fraud free election presupposes that the processes before, during and after the elections must be transparent, free and fair, adding that such begins with a well articulated legislation to regulate the conduct of the elections.
The speaker, who said security operatives must ensure that people are free to cast their vote without intimidation, added that they must not only protect the electorate from harm by making the venue secure, they must also conduct themselves in a manner that shows transparency.
In his comment, the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, said he hoped the commissionâ€™s engagement with government and the National Assembly would provide more funding for it to do a good job in the elections.
â€œOn the question of the budget, I must say it is a serious challenge. What the budget office presented as an envelope, as we had a prior discussion before that envelope was brought to the National Assembly.
As the speaker rightly said, that budget was actually a fraction of what we need to conduct that electionâ€
â€œIf we have to keep on improving the integrity of the election, we also have to incur necessary expenditures in that process. We have to engage ad-hoc staff, we have to pay them allowances, we have to transport them or give them transport allowance, we have to provide what we call lunch allowance to security agencies, we have to procure ballot papers with security details and we also have to procure result sheet in addition to ballot papers and ballot boxes and all those non-sensitive materials that are required to hold elections,â€ he said.
Jega added: â€œAnd our requirements are by far in excess of what is in the law. What keeps us optimistic is that in 2011, both the National Assembly and the executive arm of government have seen the need to provide appropriate funding in order to do a good election and we are hopeful that this recognition will be made and funding requirements provided.
â€œAnytime we mention figures about how much it will cost for election, we are put on the defensive. But since the speaker has mentioned the figure, I am duty-bound to mention our figure.â€
He stressed that: â€œAs I speak to you, we are asked to now provide the details of how the budget of N45billion can be spent.
â€œIn our engagement with the relevant authorities, we said â€˜Look N45billion is not even sufficient to do necessary procurement between now and November and to pay salaries and other entitlements of staff because all those are parts of this N45billion.