ONLY MILITARY CAN DETERMINE SANCTITY OF POLL DATES —JEGA

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•Insists he was ready for Feb 14 poll •Card readers won’t recognise cloned, stolen PVCs, he says
CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday, said the commission did not have the final say on the sanctity of election dates fixed for March 28 and April 11.
When asked to comment on the sanctity of the March and April election dates by the minority leader, Senator George Akume, he said only the military could determine the sanctity of the dates.
This came as he also reviewed that one million permanent voter cards (PVCs) were still being printed.
Jega, accompanied by some of his national commissioners and technical staff, disclosed this when he was drilled by senators for four hours, as he addressed virtually every question put through to him.
He also said the card readers being deployed for the election would not recognise stolen or cloned PVCs, adding that the tests conducted so far had shown high level of performance by the card readers.
While he reiterated the readiness of the commission to conduct a successful election as scheduled, he maintained that only the security forces could guarantee the sanctity of the dates fixed as, according to him, certain forces were not within his control.
He told the lawmakers that the commission would cancel votes in any unit where it was confirmed that they were more than the accredited voters.
“Senator George Akume asked me to state categorically whether I can guarantee the sanctity of the March 28 and April 11 dates for the general election. I think it is a very difficult question to answer.
“I have said consistently that there are things under the control of the electoral commission and there are things that are not under its control. For things that are under our control, I can give definite and categorical assurances.
“On what is not under our control, it is futile, it is fruitless and useless to give a definite guarantee on them. I think that question should be directed appropriately. The questions of security, I will leave it. I don’t think I am competent to answer it sufficiently,” he said.
The INEC boss, however, said whatever shift that would be experienced must be within the constitutional limit.
“We should also be fair to the military. Soldiers are also patriotic Nigerians. Let us give them the benefit of doubt. I don’t see how anybody will contemplate any extension beyond these six weeks.
“There is no constitutional grounds upon which you can do that. It will only have to be unconstitutional. I don’t see how anybody will contemplate any unconstitutional means. For us, we work by the constitution, by the law and as far as we are concerned, that is what is guiding us and we should all put the interest of the nation at heart.
“The human factor is always significant, it is always important, but we believe that working together with security and other stakeholders, we should be able to prevent negative human intervention that can create problems.
“I kept saying consistently that INEC is not a security organisation. We are an election management body, so we rely a lot on security to be able to ensure that things are done well and that there is no disruption of the electoral process.
“We have been working very closely with the inter agencies consultative committee on election security and that is why for us, if the service chiefs say that we can’t guarantee security, give us more time, what is the alternative security arrangements?
“If we consulted with the stakeholders and we cannot find an answer, what happens? We are going to use close to 700,000 ad hoc staff. We can’t send people to the field in that kind of a situation.
“Our hope and prayer is that in the next six weeks, there will be significant improvement in the security situation for us to be holding elections all over this country in a very secured environment. There are certain questions that we are not really competent to answer. Certain questions should be directed to the military, they can answer it better,” he added.
Jega, who led his technical staff to demonstrate the use of card readers in the Senate chamber, affirmed that the use of card readers would not infringe on the Electoral Act and the constitution, adding that the Act only banned electronic voting.
He insisted that card readers would be used to ensure the sanctity of the voters and ensure sanity in the process.
“We have done functionality and durability test on the card readers with a local partner and company, FRID with their technical partner in Texas. There were 13 specific tests done about functionality, durability and versatility and the card readers passed all the tests.
“We have done some few tests and the results we have is about 90 per cent successful. We feel comfortable that the card readers can be used and add value to the electoral process. It cannot be perfect. It may not be able to read every finger and that is why we agree with political parties.
“We bought 182,000 card readers. Some of them did not work, that is what we call dead on arrival. Of the total number of card readers that we ordered and configured, only 503 had failed to work. That is 0.03 per cent. The agreement is that if a card reader fails during accreditation, then, we will try and repair it within the time of accreditation which is between 8.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m.
“If a card reader fails around 10.00 a.m., before 1.00 p.m., we will see everything possible to replace it, but if we are unable to do so, the time lost will be added to the accreditation period and extended,” Jega added.
While speaking on the issue of PVC collection and the high rate of collection in the insurgency affected areas, Jega said he had not deployed any strategy to achieve that.
He stated further that “why should anyone blame me for that? There is the need for us to have clarity on this matter. In Yobe, only two local governments are under emergency rule and the state is among the second phase in the distribution of the PVC. Yobe, along with about 11 other states, we distributed cards as long as July 2014. So if the rate of collection has gone very high, I don’t see why that should be seen as a problem.
“The same thing in Adamawa, only four local government areas are inaccessible and we deviced a system where cards can be distributed in IDPs. So, as many as had been displaced but who had registered have been able to collect their cards.
“But when you look at the way newspapers do their analysis, they tend to project as if there is regional slant in the distribution of the cards. When we designed the distribution of cards, we did it in such a manner that we took two states each from each geopolitical zone to make a phase and we did it in three phases, just to avoid being accused of this regional slant in distribution.
“It will be wrong to assume that Yobe or any other state has higher rate of collection. If people came out to collect and other people did not, why should we be blamed for that?”
Source: Tribune

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