Posted by By Yusuf Alli, Yomi Odunga, Sam Akpe, Festus Owete, Ibanga Isine andJoseph Adeyeye on
The Independent National Electoral Commission and the Due Process Office in the Presidency are on a collision course over the commissions request for N160million.....
The Independent National Electoral Commission and the Due Process Office in the Presidency are on a collision course over the commissions request for N160million to purchase two bulletproof Land Cruiser jeeps.
Rebuffing an allegation on Tuesday that it was starving INEC of funds, the Due Process Office said the only request by the commission pending before it was the vote for the vehicles.
The House of Representatives had earlier on Tuesday chided the Federal Government over what it described as the delay in the release of funds.
At the resumption of the Houses fourth legislative session, the Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, said there was the need to ask questions if INEC could not access the N15 billion released to it out of the N42 billion capital budget.
The Speaker was reacting to a verbal report by the chairmen of the House committees on Finance and INEC on the level of funds disbursed to the commission.
He urged the Due Process Office to urgently attend to the matter of funding for INEC, adding, I think that the Due Process Office should suspend other matters and deal with issues affecting INEC.
But the Head, Public Affairs of the Due Process Office, Mr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, denied the allegation that INEC was being starved of funds. He spoke on the phone with our correspondents on Tuesday night.
According to him, all the requests made by INEC to the office had been approved and the due process certificates issued.
He said the only request by the commission pending before the office was that for the purchase of two bulletproof jeeps. Even that, he argued, was because INEC rejected an earlier certification by the office.
Orji said the Due Process Office issued certificates for N78million and N70million, representing the costs respectively of the two jeeps. This was against INECs quotation of N86 million and N74 million respectively.
Although it was not clear what special armour options the proposed jeeps would require, information on the Toyota site indicated that a most expensive Landcruiser (SUV) MSRV sells for $56,215 in Europe and Asia. This excludes delivery, processing and handling fees put at $1,580.
Refitting a cross country Toyota Landcruiser costs between $75,000 and $87,500.
According to information obtained from the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, it costs about $100,000 to turn a normal landcruiser into a bulletproof SUV in the United States.
But if a vehicles is a luxury limousine, the owner will spend more.
Bulletproof cars are normal vehicles that are fitted with extra-security features. The windows are replaced with bulletproof windows.
The outer body of such cars are then reinforced with steel.
The spokesman added, We had earlier certified the two requests, but INEC returned the certificates on the ground that the prices we certified for the projects were not acceptable to it.
But our market survey strengthened our position in this matter. As we speak, no INEC request is pending in our office. If INEC feels otherwise, let (the commission) name the project and when it was submitted to our office.
He argued that approval could not be given to requests not presented to the office.
Although he did not say when the Due Process Office issued the allegedly rejected certificates to INEC, Orji said the commission brought a fresh request only on Tuesday.
It is only around 5pm today (Tuesday) that they came to us with a letter of request. I am not sure about the nature of request they have made, but I can assure you that it has just come to us, he added.
Attempts by our correspondents to speak with INECs Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Segun Adeogun, failed.
He did not respond to calls made repeatedly to his office and his mobile phone.
But in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Tuesday night, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Andy Ezeani, said, If there is any high level security arrangement for 2007 poll, I am not aware that the commission is involved in any such thing.
Some weeks ago, some people came up with a rumour that INEC was purchasing bulletproof cars for its national commissioners, which was not true.
I want to call your attention to something. Two months ago, INEC and the Due Process Office appeared before a House committee and at that forum, the head of Due Process made it clear that his office approved applications from INEC as they come. (He said) that the release of appropriation to INEC was only done in piecemeal once the commission satisfied the condition for the release of fund.
It becomes quite strange and contradictory for the Due Process Office to say that it had approved all the demands of INEC.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Alhaji Abdulahi Idris Umar, and his INEC counterpart, Hamishu Shira, had blamed the Due Process Office for the commissions inability to access its funds.
They, however, said that a meeting had been scheduled between the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the INEC Chairman next week to find a solution to the problem.
Masari had in an opening address described the legislature as a critical branch of government and urged the representatives to re-dedicate themselves to the service of the country.
He urged all the standing committees of the House to intensify their oversight functions over ministries, departments and agencies of the government.
The House also received letters from President Olusegun Obasanjo, including bills on Maritime Safety; the Establishment of Federal Capital Territory College of Education; the FCT Educational Resource Centre; the FCT Mass Literacy Centre; the National Identity Management Commission; and the Consumer Regulatory Commission.
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