*Only Military Can Guarantee Election Dates – Jega
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is prepared to conduct the 2015 elections, only the military authorities can make the March 28 and April 11 dates sacrosanct if they can provide security cover for the polls on those dates, Chairman INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has stated.
Jega stated this on Wednesday during his appearance before the Senate in Abuja.
However, the INEC chairman categorically declared that a further shift of the elections would be unconstitutional and illegal.
Put on the spot by the Senate Minority Leader,George Akume, the election dates, Jega said: “I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I have said consistently that there are things under the control of electoral commission and there are things that are not under the control of electoral commission. 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.
“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. 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 prayer is that in the next six weeks, there will be significant improvement in the security situation for us to hold the elections all over this country in a very secure environment. There are certain questions that we are not really competent to answer. Certain questions should be directed to the military; they can answer them better.”
On another possible election postponement, Jega said: 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. For us, we work by the constitution, by the law. That is what is guiding us and we should all put the interest of the nation at heart. Every Nigerian knows we want elections to hold within a constitutional time frame. The security agencies are patriotic Nigerians. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.”
The INEC chairman also put up a robust defence of the commission’s plan to use card readers for the polls, stressing that it does not amount to bringing electronic voting system through the back door.
His words: “Whereas section 52 of the Electoral Act prohibits the use of electronic voting, the card reader is not a voting machine and it is not used for voting, it is merely an electronic device introduced to improve the integrity of the voting process.
“It should be remembered that Sections 78 and 118 of the 1999 Constitution grant INEC powers to register voters and to conduct elections in Nigeria. Using the card reader has enormous advantages; first, once it is configured, it can only read PVC issued by INEC at the polling unit that it has been configured. Second, it reads the embedded chip card not the back code.
“Third it enables authentication of the identity of the voter by matching his or her fingerprint with the code on the chip of the card. Four, it keeps a tally of all cards read and all cards verified or authenticated with all their details, including the time when this was done.”
On allegations that the permanent voter cards’ distribution has been skewed in favour of certain parts of the country, Jega said: “There is a need for us to have clarity on this matter. In Yobe State, only two local government areas are under emergency rule and the state is among the second phase in the distribution of the PVCs. In the state and about 11 others, we distributed cards as far back as July 2014. So if the rate of collection is very high, I don’t see why that should be seen as a problem.
“In Adamawa State, only four LGAs are inaccessible and we devised a system where PVCs were distributed to Internally Displaced Persons. 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 it 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 geo – political zone to make a phase and we did it in three phases just to avoid being accused of having regional slant in the distribution of the PVCs.
“It will be wrong to assume that Yobe State or any other state has higher rate of collection. If people come out to collect and others did not, why should INEC be blamed for that?