The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the commission was battling with over 1,700 cases in various courts 20 months after the 2019 general elections.
Yakubu said this when he appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC, during the 2021 budget defence before the committee on Wednesday.
He said, “Each time anyone goes to court, INEC is joined. But we have to hire lawyers to defend us. We are not paying fantastic fees; we are applying the federal ministry of justice scale of fees.
“If, for instance, you have a case for a governorship election before the Supreme Court, it’s a maximum of N4.5m but others could be as low as N3m.
“We are almost getting close to 1,700 pre-election and post-election cases in 2019 alone. And every day you hear people going to court and joining INEC.”
He explained that the legal department of INEC had about 860 pre-election and 807 post-election cases it was dealing with at the moment but that the figure was still on the rise.
Yakubu further said, the commission was planning to take N5.2bn from the INEC fund established in 2010 to augment the shortfall in its 2020 budget which was slashed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The commission cannot be independent unless it is financially independent. There are some activities that happen that are time bound or bound by some specific provisions of the constitution that the commission has to undertake.
“The fund was established to allow the commission to discharge those responsibilities. It was established in 2010 but there was no cause to spend from it, and from the last five years this commission did not spend from it.”
“What has happened now is our budget for 2020 dropped to N40bn from N45.5 bn in 2019.
“Also, as a result of the 10 per cent COVID-19 cut, it further dropped to N36bn in the middle of the year when we had already made preparation for expenditure.
“Therefore, since that fund (N10m) is made for the rainy days, we are taking part of the fund to balance our budget for this (2020) year.”
…..May testrun e-voting in Anambra gov poll
INEC also disclosed plans to use the governorship election holding in Anambra State in 2021 as a litmus test for electronic voting in Nigeria.
Yakubu, made this known in Abuja on Wednesday after he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Political Parties and Electoral Matters to defend the 2021 budget proposed by the commission.
Reacting to a question from journalists after the session, Yakubu said while INEC had yet to know what e-voting would cost, the commission was ready to make electoral system electronic.
He said, “It is difficult to give you an idea of cost or when the process would be concluded, but we are determined that we are going to deploy electronic voting machines very soon in our elections; possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship election next year.”
Meanwhile, members of the committee earlier clashed over how the Chairman, Aisha Dukku, was running the affairs of the panel.
The committee had asked all National Commissioners of INEC who accompanied Yakubu to step out of the venue, insisting on meeting with only the commission’s boss behind closed doors.
Dukku called on Yakubu to give an appraisal of INEC’s 2020 budget performance details of the 2021 budget proposal.
A member of committee, Mr Solomon Bob, however tackled Dukku, saying, “The committee did not carry out any oversight on the commission in the year, but here are we, being called upon to superintendent over another budget.”
The event almost became rowdy as Dukku failed in her attempt to explain that 2020 was disrupted by the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic. Bob had insisted that he must be allowed to land.
Consequently, committee was forced to move into a closed-door session, after the Yakubu ended his appraisal of the commission’s 2020 budget performance.