Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Senate Summons Jega To Explain Postponement Of Polls


The Senate has summoned the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, to appear before it and explain the reason for the postponement of the general elections.
Prof Jega is to appear before the Senate on Wednesday, February 17.

The Senate has also asked Professor Jega to appear before it with card readers to demonstrate how INEC would use them during the elections.

At the resumption of plenary on Tuesday, Senate President, David Mark, also warned that an interim government is unconstitutional and those clamouring  for it are embarking in an exercise in futility.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced a shift in the general elections dates to March 28 and April 11.

The new schedule was announced on February 7 by Prof Jega, after meetings with political stakeholders.

Prof Jega said that the Presidential Election will hold on March 28 while the Governorship election on April 11.

“We have done wide reaching consultations to enable us have as much input as necessary before taking an informed decision.

“In the series of consultations that we had with stakeholders, the questions constantly posed to them for consideration are; in view of the latest developments, should INEC proceed with the conduct of the general elections as scheduled in spite of the strong advice and if so, what alternative security arrangements are available to be put in place.

“The second is; should INEC take the advice of the security chiefs and adjust the schedules of the general elections within the framework of the constitutional provisions,” Professor Jega said.

‘Concerned About Security’

According to him, the commission decided to take the advice of the security chiefs and adjust the dates of the elections in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

“We have done this, relying on section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act, as amended.

“Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct an election as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned appoint another day for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”

The chairman of the INEC pointed out that for the fact the commission was not a security agency that could guarantee protection of personnel, voters during elections and observers, the commission could not likely wave-off the advice by the nation’s security chiefs.

“The commission is concerned about the security of our ad-hoc staff, the young men and women of the NYSC and students of the tertiary education who constitute at least 600,000 young men and women that we will use in the election,” he said.

Professor Jega further said that the concern was not limited to the areas in the north-eastern part of the nation that has witnessed series of attacks by the members of a terrorist group, the Boko Haram but to the security of the commission’s officials and the observers.

“We believe that few election management bodies around the world will contemplate conducting elections under these circumstances,” he said, emphasising that “the prospect for free, fair and credible elections will not be guaranteed if the election was held as scheduled”.

In the new schedule, the Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on March 28 while the Governorship and State Assemblies elections will hold on April 11.

In the initial schedule, the elections were meant to hold on February 14 and 28.

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