The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday expressed worries over poor funding ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The commission’s problem is compounded by the non-approval of the 2019 election fund requests sent to the National Assembly.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last week sent a request for the national assembly to approve N254 billion for the conduct of 2019 elections.
But the national assembly proceeded on recess to resume in September, 2018.
The INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, spoke during State House Press Corps retreat on the theme: “Covering Election Campaigns” at the Epe Resort, Lagos State.
Represented by the Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Samuel Olumeku, Yakubu said the commission was facing funding challenge ahead of the 2019 elections.
He, however, assured that the Commission will have to seek other sources of funding to ensure that its plans do not grind to a halt.
He said “As you know, our procurement process is very cumbersome and to make procurement it may take up to four months and this may affect what we are doing at INEC. But we may be forced to look at other sources of funding so that our preparation for the 2019 election is not affected”
He also said that INEC has an extensive process of preparations for every election.
“When we are not conducting election, we are out there educating the people” he added
The commission also expressed worries over the problem of votes buying which the INEC described as “worrisome”
He said, “Votes buying has taken a frightening dimension”, but assured that INEC has put in place measures to tackle the challenge.
The INEC Chairman also lamented the non- assent to the 2018 amendment to the Electoral Act, a situation he said may make the organization to jettison the Act unless it comes into effect not later than six months to the election.
“Well, as you know, we work with rules and the 2018 Electoral Act is expected to guide the conduct of the 2019 general election, but we may not be able to use it unless it comes six months before the general election.
“We need a budget to be able to run the election, any law that does not come into effect six months before the election cannot apply to the 2019 election.
On voter’s card cloning, he assured that such cards will be rejected by the smart card reader, adding that “you cannot vote with such cards.”
The INEC Chairman advocated for a rejig on its election spending rules to include spending by individuals who want to support candidates
“As it is now, as a person, you can spend any amount to support any candidate or political party but the law only allows INEC to scrutinize the books of the political parties”
He also cautioned the media against sensitization of reports that tend to discourage voters from turning out to vote, especially as it affects heightening of security risks.
“INEC lacks facilities to print voters card at the spot of registration which is why it issues temporarily cards.” he stated
Chairman of This Day Editorial Board, Segun Adeniyi who presented a paper on “Covering the Presidential Villa During Campaigns; Between Professional / Sentimental Interest” observed that reporters must maintain delicate balancing reporting in the Villa, urging reporters to be careful.
He also urged reporters to avoid sensational reportage, including stories that have no attribution.
“There are lots of information going on, do not allow anybody to use you.”
Adeniyi, who recounted his experience both as reporter and later Special Adviser on Media and Publicity at the Presidential Villa, said reporters must be both accurate and objective in their reporting.
According to him, “You must learn to control your emotions and be tactful in handling newsmakers and news.
“You won’t know the fight other people do on your behalf at the background. It won’t be a sweet story when you have to face the security.
“The government just want to muzzle the Press, because they are in power today, they want to see themselves as the custodian of the national security.
“Facts are sacred, while comets are free” There is nothing going on today that did not happen in 2015. Let Buhari go today and another person comes in, it will be the same for the new comer.
“People should not be so sentimental or emotional to the extent that you become part of the story. These politicians are all the same. Try as much as possible to be objective in your reporting. Many people get worked up for people they did not even know.
“People get worked up for nothing, that is why we should have an open mind and it should not affect our friendship. People are entitled to their choices but we should be objective.” he said
Noting that it was a bitter experience under the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, he said that he was surprised that even under democracy things weren’t better.
He admonished State House correspondents to avoid the perks coming from officials as it may affect the ways they work.