Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has budgeted the sum of N305 billion for the 2023 elections. INEC’s Election Project Plan (EPP) committee listed the designation of funds for the conduct of the 2023 elections following a revised budget proposal submitted by INEC’s 23 departments and directorates.
Globally elections are expensive. However, some factors determine the variation in each country’s cost of elections. These factors include the structure and size of the country’s democracy, the country’s population, and the frequency with which the country holds elections. Hence, the adoption of COVI – the average cost per registered voter index which determines a country’s cost of conducting an election.
COVI rates that for a country with stable democracy such as Germany and Canada the average cost per voter is about $1 to $3. For countries with transitional democracies such as Nigeria, the average cost per voter is between $4 to $8 and for post-conflict and other transactional democracies, the average cost per voter is $9 and more.
Using COVI index; a speculative target of 100 million registered voters and the average cost per voter of a transitional democracy of $5.39 would give a budget of $539 million and over N300 billion (depending on the exchange rate). Note that the naira has performed poorly against the dollar in recent weeks.
Given the critical condition of Nigeria’s economy, most Nigerians would argue that the federal government could spend the inflated budget of N305 billion on other sectors in the country that desperately needs a huge influx of funds from the education sector to health to transport to insecurity.
However, there are a load of factors that contribute to the rising cost of elections. Here are a few:
First, in 1999, when Nigeria returned to democratic elections, there were only three political parties that participated in the election namely Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD). In the 2019 general elections, the number of political parties in Nigeria had increased to 79 political parties. This number will continue to increase as the election year approaches. An increase in the number of political parties automatically increases the quantity of election materials, such as ballot papers, results sheets, cubicles, and ballot boxes. Note that they manufacture abroad and import these election materials into the country. This certainly costs a lot of money seeing the performance of the naira against the dollar.
Secondly, INEC has introduced technological materials including DDCMs, Permanent Voter Card (PVC), Smart Card Reader (SCR), Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and more. These materials, although designed in the country, are expensive to produce and import into Nigeria.
Finally, the logistics for paying, training, feeding and transporting the various security agencies and ad hoc and permanent staff across the 176,846 Polling Units, judging by the 2019 elections, takes about 24.22% of the budget.