Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised concerns over funding for the 2019 general elections.

This follows the non-consideration and approval of the 2019 election fund requests sent to the National Assembly before the decision of the Senate to adjourn abruptly until September, 2018 for resumption of plenary.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter titled ‘Request for virement and supplementary 2018 budget,’ sent to the National Assembly said, Nigeria would need N254 billion to prosecute the 2019 general election.

The money, he said, would be drawn from the 2018 and 2019 budgets.

According to him, the Federal Government needed the same of N242 billion to fund six agencies in the 2019 general election.

Of the total sum, N164 billion would be drawn from the 2018 supplementary budget while N78 billion would form part of the 2019 budget of these agencies.

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Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said this at the bi-annual retreat of State House Press Corps (SHPC), at Jubilee Chalets, Epe, Lagos State.

Yakubu, who was represented by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of Lagos, Samuel Olumekan, spoke on the topic: ‘Covering Campaigns’, said the commission’s target is to make the 2019 general elections the best ever, said Nigeria must be supported to succeed in entrenching best democratic practices comparable to others in the world.

The INEC boss said the Commission was facing funding challenge ahead of the 2019 elections but assured that the Commission would have to seek other sources of funding to ensure that its plans does not grind to a halt

“As you know, our procurement process is very cumbersome and to make a 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.”

Speaking to the allegation of vote buying in the recently conducted elections, the electoral commission described it as “worrisome.”

According to him, “Votes buying has taken a frightening dimension”, but assured that INEC has put in place measures to tackle the challenge which it could not immediately disclosed.

The INEC Chairman also lamented the non- assent to the 2018 amendment to the Electoral Act, a situation he said may make the organisation 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.

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“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 voters 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.”

Yakubu also stressed the need for the media to stick to it constitutional roles of informing and education in the society.

He 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.

The INEC Boss urged the media to set the agenda for the political class and play the role of peace-building to heal the cleavages that could rise from intense campaigns.

Chairman of This Day Editorial Board, Segun Adeniyi who talked on “Covering the Presidential Villa During Campaigns; Between Professional / Sentimental Interest” cautioned reporters to be skeptical of any story emanating from individuals in government, especially as political activities heightens in the country stressing that such stories could be designed to cause harm to political opponents.

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 as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity at the Presidential Villa, noted that reporters must be both accurate and objective in their reporting.”

Adeniyi speaking on the innocuous bill, tagged Repeal and Enactment Bill 2018, that seeks to repeal the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992, he said like previous attempts, this too shall fail.

He described the media as the most “credible opposition,” considering the thin ideological lines dividing the major political parties in Nigeria.

Adeniyi advised members of the State House Press Corps to be tactful in their reports, pointing out that the reportage or slant of the security challenge in Nigeria has contributed to the security challenge in the country.

He also harmed on the need for objectivity and accuracy, advising the press corps to be mindful of stories without attribution and to be “a bit sceptical” and to carry out “background checks” on any information they got from any source.

Speaking on “Hate Speech, the Media and Nigeria’s Unity,” Dr. Umar Kari, a lecturer at the Sociology Department of the University of Abuja, advised the media to be careful about the way the cast headlines and report their stories that could incite the people.