The Presidency on Friday listed some of the reasons it feels that going ahead with the February dates for the general elections as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can “throw the country into turmoil and confusion.”
It however said President Goodluck Jonathan would not engage in any form of subterfuge to pressurise INEC to change the dates of the elections.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, stated these in Abuja at a press conference called to clarify the outcome of the Council of State meeting held on Thursday.
Okupe said there was no time during the meeting held inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja, when the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, insisted on the February dates as quoted by some media reports.
He listed the level of preparedness of the electoral body and security situation in some parts of the country as some of the reasons why it will be wise to revisit the February dates.
On preparation, Okupe said in all INEC’s submissions at the meeting, the only process that was 100% concluded was the preparation and availability of the voters register.
He claimed that all other processes including provision, distribution and collection of PVCs, printing of ballot papers, distribution of verification machines and other non –sensitive materials, recruitment and training of ad hoc staff are all “work in progress.”
He added that Jega himself admitted that given a little more time, INEC would be in a better position to perfect the processes and its readiness for the elections.
He said, “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.”
Okupe said while some opinions were proffered that elections could be allowed to hold on February 14 in 32 states not affected by insurgency, Jonathan made it clear that he would not allow an election where some people will be excluded for no fault of theirs.
He quoted the President as further saying that endorsing such would tend to confirm the falsehood already being propagated in some parts of the country that he was encouraging the war in the North East to ensure that voters in the APC states were not allowed to vote in the 2015 elections.
He added, “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 29th date for the swearing-in is sacrosanct. All talks about interim government arrangement is 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 lawful 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 Niger, Chad and Cameroonian Military, offer a very genuine hope that in a very short while, the situation in the affected states will be brought under such reasonable control that will guarantee safety of the electoral process and electorate in the war front 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 the 14th February. ”
“We also wish to recollect that in 2003, 2007, and 2011 the elections were held in April, and the hand over date was not affected.”
“We therefore challenge the opposition to tell Nigerians in clear terms, what dangers the change of date from February 14th portends to the electoral process or to the Nigerian 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.”
Okupe, while saying that INEC was not fully ready for the elections, dared the commission to direct its Resident Electoral Commissioners to swear to an affidavit to prove their readiness for the polls. ”
“It will be very re-assuring if the INEC can get its RECs to attach their state 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.
Okupe claimed that in Sokoto State, nine local government areas are yet to receive PVC for the continuous voters registration, barely nine days to the election.
He also claimed that the majority of the 960,000 ad hoc staff needed by the commission are yet to be recruited and trained especially on the operations of card readers that are yet to be made available. He added that Lagos State is yet to receive a balance of about 12,000 card readers for elections. -Punch.