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INEC to spend N305b on 2023 polls

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that it has received N100 billion out of the N305 billion it proposed for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

INEC said President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill would not hamper its activities as an electoral umpire.

It also said it “will never reward bad behaviour’’ by conducting a by-election in Ekiti East State Constituency before the June 2023 governorship election in the state.

INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu defended the agency’s proposed N305 billion budget for the general elections before the Senate Committee on Appropriation in Abuja.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation,   Barau Jibrin, assured that the 2022 federal Appropriation Bill will be passed today.

Yakubu attributed his inability to defend the budget proposal last week to an official engagement outside the country.

He said: “We thank the committee and by extension, the Senate, for all the proactive measures taken, including some of the provisions in the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, particularly Section 3, which you have strengthened to grant better financial autonomy for the commission.

“I also thank you for the provision in the bill for ensuring that funds are released to the commission, at least, one year to the elections.

“We made a submission for the sum of N305billion for the 2023 general elections.

“We made the submission on the basis of the N100billion as one line item, N40billion regular budget, and the 2022 Appropriation Bill, and then, there is the outstanding N205billion.

“What we have done is to look at the activities that we have to conduct before the general elections. There are activities that must be concluded.

“For instance, if you are going to replace some of the critical facilities like ballot boxes and voting cubicles, these things must be done before the election.

“Party primaries must be conducted and concluded before the election and names of candidates submitted, registration of voters would have to be concluded before the election.

“Printing of the permanent voter’s card would have to be concluded before the election and then some of the critical election technology for the 2023 general elections must be concluded and procured before the election.

“There are activities that we have to undertake during the elections, for instance, engagement for the transporters for electoral logistics. We can’t engage them in advance, it has to be close to the election.

“Payment of ad hoc staff, we can’t engage ad hoc staff and pay them long after the election, it has to be during the election.”

“In submitting the executive proposal to the National Assembly, the sum of N140billion was made available to INEC as a one-line item in the budget.

“The N140billion was broken into two, we take it that N40billion is our regular budget as an agency of government and N100billion was the first tranche of the 2022 budget and we have gone ahead to make provisions accordingly.

“It may interest the committee to know that we have eight bye-elections pending (three federal constituencies and five state constituencies.

“In fact, the last vacancy occurred only last Wednesday following the death of a member that represented Jiwa West State Constituency in Kaduna State. We have other by-elections pending. We hope that these elections will hold as soon as we resume in the new year.”

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine

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European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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