To meet with party bosses, RECs
Factors against Feb 14 election —Presidency
Following the decision by the National Council of State which asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to go ahead with the presidential election scheduled for next Saturday, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Pressor Attahiru Jega, is to meet today with some stakeholders to decide whether or not the elections would hold as scheduled.
There have been various agitations by some Nigerians on the need to postpone the election based on what they said was the need to make the permanent voters cards available to all eligible voters and other issues.
Based on this, the chairman of INEC, according to a statement issued by Kayode Idowu, his Chief Press Secretary, will hold separate meetings with chairmen and secretaries of all registered political parties in the country as well as with all Resident Electoral Commissioners.
It is expected that after the meetings, the INEC boss will hold a press conference to inform the nation whether or not the elections will hold as scheduled.
According to the statement: “On Thursday, Jega was invited to brief the National Council of State on the preparedness of INEC to conduct the 2015 general elections. He made a presentation titled “Preparations for the 2015 General Elections: Progress Report.’ The National Security Adviser (NSA) and Armed Services Chiefs also briefed the council on the current security situation.
“As a follow-up to that meeting, the commission has scheduled a consultative meeting with chairmen and secretaries of all registered political parties, as well as a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, February 7, 2015.
“Thereafter, the commission will address a press conference to brief the nation on its decision with regard to whether or not the general elections will hold as currently scheduled.”
Factors against February 14 election —Presidency
The Presidency on Friday assured that it would not engage in subterfuge to prevent the conduct of the general election as scheduled but has pointed out that a number of factors make a shift in the date necessary to avoid throwing the country into confusion.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, also clarified that Professor Jega never insisted at any meeting held at the Presidential Villa Abuja that he would go ahead with the election on the present scheduled dates.
According to him, beyond ongoing security challenges in parts of the country, there were issues about the preparedness of the electoral body to carry out the exercise at this time.
He said from INEC’s briefing at the Council of State meeting, the electoral umpire was only 100 per cent ready in the areas of preparation and the voters register, whereas, in all other processes, including provision, distribution and collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), printing of ballot papers, distribution of verification machines and other non –sensitive materials, recruitment and training of ad hoc staff, the commission was yet to be fully ready.
According to him, even Jega admitted that with a little more time, INEC would be in a better position to carry out its statutory responsibilities.
Okupe stated: “Also in his presentations to the council, the INEC Chairman stated clearly that for the electoral process to be free, fair, and credible, there are other matters which were not under the control of INEC, principal among which is the issue of provision and guarantee of security of lives and properties.
“The security chiefs were unanimous in their advice to the council that it will be impossible for now for them to guarantee security of electoral materials, INEC staff, and the voting population in the areas currently engulfed by the war against insurgency.”
He revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan kicked against the idea canvassed for by some participants at the meeting that election should be allowed to go on in the 32 states where insurgents were not active as the president believed that it would deny many eligible Nigerians the chance to exercise their franchise.
He said the President was also of the view that allowing election in parts of the country would lend weight to the lie already being told in some quarters that he was behind the move to exclude part of the North East from the electoral process because they were opposition strongholds.
Okupe further said: “For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerians are hereby re-assured that there has never been, and never shall be, any plan to cancel the 2015 elections, for any reasons whatsoever.
“It will not happen, and the May 29 date for the swearing-in is sacrosanct. All talks about interim government arrangement are pure fiction.
“The consideration behind the possibility of change of date is to allow those who may be disfranchised from voting on the 14th February to have an opportunity to exercise their rights to vote and participate in the general elections.
“The new wave of successes being recorded by the military in the war against insurgency, especially with the arrival of new effective combatant equipment and machinery, plus the newly revamped cross border co-operation with Nigerien, Chadian and Cameroonian military offer a very genuine hope that in a very short while, the situation in the affected states will be brought under control that will guarantee safety of the electoral process and electorate in the region of the North–East at a no distant future.
“We repeat that the only set of people who stand to benefit from a shift in election dates are Nigerians who desire to vote and have not been able to collect their permanent voters cards and other innocent citizens living in the war zone who may not be able to vote on February 14.
“We also wish to recollect that in 2003, 2007, and 2011, the elections were held in April, and the handover date was not affected.
“We, therefore, challenge the opposition to tell Nigerians, in clear terms, what dangers the change of date from February 14 portends to the electoral process or to the electorate.
“It will also be good if the opposition tells us who stands to benefit or be disadvantaged from any shifting of date and how.”
The presidential aide challenged INEC to prove that it was ready for the election, saying, “It will be very re-assuring if the INEC can get its RECs to attach their states of readiness to a sworn affidavit and show it to Nigerians.
“The interest of this government is to ensure that we do not have a rancorous and poorly conducted general elections that will throw the country into turmoil and confusion with the likelihood of an unnecessary internal and external rejection and condemnation,” he said.
According to him, in Sokoto State, for instance, nine local government areas were yet to receive their PVCs while Lagos was yet to receive the balance of its card reader.
This is even as he noted that the majority of the 960,000 ad hoc staff needed by the commission were yet to be recruited and trained, especially on the operations of card readers that are yet to be made available.
To meet with party bosses, RECs