The 2019 general elections are set to be Nigeria’s most expensive polls in history, according to Daily Trust investigations of approved official expenditure of past elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari had proposed N242.45bn (equivalent to $672.35m at official exchange rate) to the National Assembly for next year’s general elections.
The money will be shared between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and five other security agencies that police the elections.
The federal electoral umpire will spend a total of N190bn, representing 73.51 percent of the proposed amount, while the remaining N52.45bn (26. 49 percent) would go to security agencies that will police the voting process.
The breakdown shows that the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was allocated N4.28bn, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) N3. 57bn, Nigeria Police Force N30.54bn, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) N2.63bn, and Directorate of State Security (DSS) N12.21bn.
During the 2015 elections, with 67m registered voters, Nigeria spent $625m, according to data prepared by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in 2015.
INEC had at a recent stakeholders’ summit in Abuja said that over 100 political parties may feature on the ballot paper during the 2019 polls, while an estimated 80m voters may take part in the elections.
The election budget is about $50m higher than what Nigeria spent during 2015 elections. What INEC is set to get this year is also more than half of what the commission got from 1999 to 2015 as electoral expenditure.
From 1999 to 2018, the INEC had received N450bn as an electoral expenditure from the federal government, according to official documents reviewed by Daily Trust.
These figures did not include other money INEC got from international organisations working on election areas over the period.
The federal government, through the National Assembly, approves money (electoral expenditure) for INEC during election years, apart from its traditional budgetary allocations.
Nigeria to spend more than India, UK
Nigeria’s elections cost higher than the $600m the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) spent during the 2014 general elections in which 553.8m people voted out of 815m registered voters.
The cost of conducting elections in Nigeria is also higher than those of bigger economies such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Canada, for instance, spent $375m on electoral expenditure where 17.5m voted. The United Kingdom spent £113m during its 2010 parliamentary elections in which 45.6m voted. £28.6m was the cost of distributing candidates’ mailings, and £84.6m for the conduct of the poll.
Kenya, with 14.3m registered voters, spent $427m during its general elections in 2012 and $499m in 2017, while Australia, with 14.7m voters, spent $197.6m for the House of Representatives and half of Senate elections in 2013.
Budget to enhance card readers – INEC
But the director of voter education and publicity of INEC, Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, said the INEC budget will be used in procurement of enough card readers, upgrading them for the elections, as well funding overhead cost.
The INEC director, who spoke in a television programme monitored by our reporter, said: “You do know that your laptops, even in the best storage conditions, don’t work efficiently and effectively as they did eight years ago. Technology has moved on. So, with the improvement of technology, we have to enhance the card readers and voters cards.”
He said the commission “will certainly do the budget defense process and when it is done it will be by way of an appropriation act. We will make it public. I am sure the National Assembly will make it public.”
Daily Trust recalls that while defending the 2018 budget estimates of the electoral body in January, INEC chairman Professor Mahmud Yakubu had said that the exact cost of the 2019 general elections, which would hold across the 119,999 polling units in the country, could only be arrived at after the passage of electoral act by the National Assembly.
The N242.45bn proposal was made by the president after the transmission of a new version of the amendment made to the 2010 electoral act by the National Assembly.
Rise and rise of elections cost
Review of official documents of INEC budgetary allocations showed that the cost of elections has been rising since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
The total budgetary allocations INEC received from the federal government from 1999 to 2018, was N730.99bn, according to official documents reviewed by Daily Trust.
Of this sum, N450bn was captured under ‘electoral expenditure,’ while N191.8bn was ‘personnel cost,’ N36.9bn ‘overhead cost,’ and N54.7bn was ‘capital expenditure projects.’
The electoral expenditure started with N1.5bn in 1999 to N29bn in 2002, N45.5bn in 2006, N111bn in 2010, and down to N87.8bn in 2014.
Further analysis of the official documents revealed that the electoral umpire’s highest total budgetary expenditure was during the 2015 elections where it spent a total of N236.7bn from 2012 to 2015.
The electoral commission spent about N212.6bn from 2008 and 2011; N84.6bn from 2004 to 2007, and N54.2bn from 2000 to 2003, according to the INEC data.
Polls shouldn’t be moneymaking venture – CISLAC
The Buhari administration should be worried about the cost of conducting elections, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) told Daily Trust.
He said given the administration’s position on the effective and responsible management of public resources, it’s expected that there would be a reduction of waste and extravagant spending in conducting elections.
“The proposed budget to hold elections has not given hope that under this administration we will not witness abuse of public resources in the name of holding elections which even the previous administrations have not spent this much,” he said.
Rafsanjani said, “Unfortunately despite the huge spending on elections in Nigeria, we still witness fraudulent electoral outcome and violence which this huge proposed budget may not guarantee integrity in its outcome.”
The CISLAC chief said Nigeria must “stop wasting public funds in every election circle and build a credible system like other countries where conducting an election is not an avenue for money-making.”
He advised that this government must at the end give assurance of electoral transparency and absence of manipulation and violence.
INEC audit reports should be public – TMG
The Chairperson of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, told Daily Trust that civil society organisations must track the election budget to ensure value for money.
“While I am not saying that the budget may be padded or not, I think that it’s important that due diligence is ensured in procurement, checks and balances is done effectively by agencies or organs expected to perform oversight function on INEC,” she said.
Akiyode-Afolabi said, “INEC should also disclose previous audit reports to enable more comparison of costs allocated for various items previously and now.”
“TMG is yet to assess the full budget breakdown for the 2019 elections to be able to do a nuanced analysis, however in a country that is going through economic downturn one will be quick to say spending such an amount on the election is very high,” Dr Abiola said.
She, however, said considering the inflation rate and dollar exchange rate, some of the costs might be justified. For example, if you compare this budget with that of 2015, it’s about 15 percent higher, she said.
What Nigeria can do with election budget
Comparatively, the proposed 2019 election budget is enough to fund the dualisation, reconstruction and rehabilitation of 62 key economic roads across the six geo-political zones of the country.
Also, the election budget is about 44 times higher than what the 36 federal universities will spend on capital projects in 2018.