FEBRUARY 8, 2015 BY JOHN ALECHENU, OLUSOLA FABIYI, ADE ADESOMOJU AND TOBI AWORINDE 99 COMMENTS
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
| credits: File photo
The Independent National Electoral Commission has announced the rescheduling of the general elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, stated this at a press briefing in Abuja Saturday night.
He said the decision was taken after several consultations with political parties, civil society organisations, members of the Council of State, INEC national commissioners and resident electoral commissioners.
With the shift, the Presidential and National Assembly elections originally scheduled for February 14 will now hold on March 28 while the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections earlier fixed for 28 February will take place on April 11.
Jega said the decision to shift the elections was a difficult one, but added that it had to be taken because of the security implications of holding the election without the support of security agencies.
He said while the commission was ready to conduct the elections, the input of the security agencies was important.
He said, “Whatever the commission does may not be sufficient to guarantee the success of elections. There are others like security which is not under the control of INEC.
“On Thursday, February 5, I was invited to brief the Council of State on the level of preparedness to conduct the elections. I have detailed account of what the commission had been doing for the readiness of the elections.
“The summary of my presentation was that for matters under the control of INEC, the commission was ready for the elections despite the challenges of PVCs and we have been doing all we could do for that.”
He said that in the delivery of materials, INEC was ready for the election. He, however, stated that the commission was handicapped in some areas.
He said, “But there are other variables that are not under the control of INEC, which is security. While the commission has a good relationship with security agencies, it has become necessary for us to listen to the advice of the security agencies. We are an electoral body not a security agency. We rely on them to provide security for us.”
Because of the security agencies’ advice, he said it would not be wise for the commission to go ahead with the elections.
Jega said, “Last Wednesday, the office of the National Security Adviser wrote a letter to the commission on the issues of security in the North-East. The letter stated that security could not be guaranteed and this was re-echoed at the council meeting.”
In arriving at the new dates, he said the commission relied on the Electoral Act, which says that “where a date has been appointed for the election and there is reason to believe that there is serious breach of peace to occur, the commission may postpone the election and it shall appoint another date for the election provided that the reasons are cogent and verifiable.”
Jega said there would be no cost implications for the postponement, adding that majority of the materials to be used for the elections were already in the country.
Asked if a court of law could stop the commission from holding the elections, he said, “My understanding is that no court can stop the election. The power to schedule and election is in the hands of the INEC.”
On the call for his resignation by some supporters of President Goodluck Jinathan, led by Chief Edwin Clark, he said he would not resign.
He said, “I will not resign because my conscience does not say so. I have never met with anyone on how one candidate could win and the other could lose. If there are legitimate reasons for me to resign, I would leave. “
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress on Saturday described the decision by INEC to shift the 2015 elections by six weeks as a major setback for democracy.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, said INEC’s decision taken on the strength of a letter written by security chiefs that they cannot provide security for the elections nationwide, because of the commitment of resources to fighting insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country, is provocative.
He said, “This is clearly a major setback for Nigerian democracy, and our party is meeting in an emergency session to study its implications. We will inform Nigerians of its decisions in the next few days.
“In the meantime what has happened is highly provocative, I strongly appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm and desist from violence and any activity which will compound this unfortunate development. We must not fall into this obvious trap. Change we must. They can only delay it; No one can stop it.
“I want to assure all Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress will not abandon its commitment to change and will sustain the struggle to establish a new Nigeria.”
The Peoples Democratic Party however said the party welcomed INEC’s decision.
The party’s Lagos Publicity Secretary, Taofik Gani, told SUNDAY PUNCH that INEC took the best decision.
He said, “INEC mentioned the area of security and the fact that people have not received their PVCs as expected. These are two strong points upon which anybody would consider if given the powers to postpone the elections.”
The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation also said it was satisfied with INEC’s decision.
The Director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, Femi Fani-Kayode, said the INEC ‘’must be commended for showing the courage to shift the elections after acknowledging the fact that its state of preparedness was not 100 per cent.’’
Nigeria has postponed its 14 February presidential election by six weeks because of security fears.
Election commission chief Attahiru Jega said the delay until 28 March was necessary because of a lack of troops available to protect voters.
Nigeria’s military has been battling an insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the north-east of the country.
The opposition described the delay as a “setback for Nigerian democracy”.
Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, from the All Progressives Congress (APC) is challenging incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who heads the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Correspondents say it looks set to be a tight race between the two.
Mr Jega announced the delay late on Saturday.
He said it was necessary as he had been told that troops would not be available to help patrol the vote as they were too busy conducting operations against Boko Haram.
Police in Abuja and other cities are on the alert for unrest
“The commission cannot lightly wave off the advice of the nation’s security chiefs,” said Mr Jega.
“Calling people to exercise their democratic rights in a situation where their security cannot be guaranteed is a most onerous responsibility.”
However, officials from the APC accuse the military of forcing the electoral commission into the delay to help the sitting president’s campaign.
APC chairman John Odigie-Oyegun said the “highly provocative” move was a “major setback for Nigerian democracy”.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was “deeply disappointed”.
“Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process,” he said.
The ruling PDP party praised the postponement, and said the commission was facing “numerous logistical problems and numerous internal challenges”, AP news agency reported.
Analysis: Will Ross, BBC Nigeria correspondent, Lagos
The delay is highly contentious and will be seen by many Nigerians as foul play. What is not clear at this stage is whether it will favour President Goodluck Jonathan or his rival, Muhammadu Buhari.
Attahiru Jega made a point of saying this was a decision taken by the electoral commission but clearly the “referee” was under intense pressure.
The Boko Haram conflict has raged for five years but just days before the vote, Professor Jega was suddenly told the entire military would be focused solely on the north-east – in other words, “you are getting no help from the military, you are on your own”. With the threat of violence so real, he was put in a tight corner.
It seems highly unlikely that the conflict will be brought to an end within the next few weeks, so will the election be held at all? That may depend on whether some powerful personalities feel President Jonathan is well placed for a victory.
Parliamentary elections due to take place on 14 February have also been postponed to 28 March, and elections for state governors and assemblies slated for 28 February have been moved to 11 April.
Earlier on Saturday, protesters had urged the commission not to postpone the elections
Thousands of people have died as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency over the past six years, while more than a million people have been displaced.
The militants control a large stretch of land in north-eastern Nigeria but have also started attacking neighbouring countries.
Promises to do “everything humanly possible” to combat Boko Haram. Seeks greater regional and international cooperation to tackle the insurgency, terrorism, piracy and organised crime.
Says the government has been ineffective and lacks the willpower to fight Boko Haram. Pledges to end the insurgency within months if elected.
Says he will continue with his economic blueprint known as the “2011-2015 Transformation agenda”. Views economic diversification as a key step towards addressing the fall in global oil prices.
Says government’s economic policies have worsened the lives of Nigerians. Promises to pick “competent hands” to run the economy. Pledges to tackle poverty by closing the wealth gap through shared economic growth.
Says “we are fighting corruption. It is not by publicly jailing people. Yes, we believe in suppressing corruption, but our emphasis is in prevention.”
Says one of his key priorities is to wipe out corruption. “If Nigeria doesn’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.
Promises to create 2 million jobs each year. Launched YouWIN scheme for young entrepreneurs and Sure-P initiative aimed at helping graduates find jobs.
Promises to create 20,000 jobs per state, totalling 720,000. Pledges support for the agricultural sector and soft loans for small manufacturers to boost job creation.
Credits his administration with reviving the railway system and improving road infrastructure.
Pledges to complete stalled road projects and improve infrastructural development nationwide, especially in the north-east.
Says government’s privatization of the power generation and distribution companies will ensure regular power supplies in the future.
Favours exploration of non-oil sector. Says economic diversification key to addressing falling global oil prices.