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Nigerian Legislators Pass $585 Million Electoral Budget

  • Anne Look

On Tuesday, Nigeria's Senate approved a $585 million electoral budget for presidential and parliamentary elections due in the next six months. The House of Representatives deferred passing that budget Wednesday, saying it would amend what it deemed unnecessary expenditures, but on Thursday, the House passed a budget totaling the same amount.

The funds are primarily intended to overhaul the voter list as the country prepares to hold parliamentary and presidential polls.

House Minority Leader, Ali Ndume, said the House decided to maintain the $585 million bottom line so as not to hold up elections.

"That was what informed our decision not to disagree with the senators because that would require that we come to harmonization which would delay the process," said Ndume. "But since we are in agreement in total, it is only in the details that we have a little difference, then we said it should just go on like that."

Ndume had initially called for an amendment to cut out the cost of a middleman in the purchase of voter registration machines, but he said Thursday that the House had reached a compromise. The machines would be purchased directly from the manufacturer, but the $60 million saved would remain in the budget and be put in a contingency fund for the electoral commission.

Legislators voted last month to move elections up to January. There were concerns that continued haggling over the budget could delay what is already an accelerated electoral timeline.

Senator Adamu Garba Talba said the $585 million budget is warranted as the elections are a nationwide undertaking.

"It is from my village down to a village in Lagos, from my village down to a village in Port Harcourt," said Talba. "It is a national sort of exercise therefore, if we want a national exercise to succeed, I believe you ought to spend a lot of money."

Talba said the most important consideration now is giving the electoral commission the means necessary to organize a free, fair and credible election.

Ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation undermined the credibility of Nigeria's last elections in 2007. President Goodluck Jonathan made electoral reform a top priority when he assumed the presidency in May after the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

Mr. Jonathan has not said whether he will run in the presidential election in January.

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