Jega Admits Mistakes in 2011 Polls, Plans Credible Elections in 2015

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 The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has stated that the commission has taken steps to avoid the mistakes of the past, acknowledging that the 2011 general election was somewhat flawed.

Jega said the 2015 election results would be collated by men of proven integrity to be drawn from the academia.

“From what we have seen in the past and based on our conviction, we have not detected any case of corruption or pecuniary embarrassment from the academics assigned to handle the conduct of the 2011 general election.”

Delivering a lecture on Monday at Bayero University Kano (BUK) entitled: ‘INEC and the 2015 general election, expectations, prospects and challenges,’  the INEC boss said: “This time around, results would be announced at every  polling unit for any irregularity to be averted. Even if an agent of any political party refuses to sign a result sheet, we are going ahead to make such a valid result.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a two-day international conference on ‘Emerging Electoral Jurisprudence in Africa’ yesterday in Abuja, Jega said the  2011 general election produced the least number of recorded petitions with a total of 733 election petitions.

He however noted that the 2007 general election produced 3,000 petitions.
The conference was organised by The Electoral Institute (TEI),  an organ of INEC, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation.

The INEC boss who was represented by a National Commissioner, Dr. Ishmael Igbani, gave the breakdown of the petitions to include two from the presidential election, 53 from the governorship election, 90 senatorial, 198  from the House of Representatives and 390 petitions from the state Houses of Assembly.

Accordingly to the representative of the INEC chairman, “Currently, the widely held view is that it is the judiciary rather than the voters that determine electoral outcomes in Nigeria.

“The judiciary, beginning from electoral tribunals to the Supreme Court, have had to decide on sensitive and prominent gubernatorial and presidential cases, respectively.”

He said that each presidential election litigation came with its peculiar challenges, stating “the 2011 presidential election Supreme Court case resulted in majority and minority decisions.

“Both decisions are quite incisive and raise many contentious and unresolved questions.’’ Jega said.

Jega explained that in a good system, there must be an effective dispute resolution mechanism, rather than resorting to judicial process.

He added that electoral and political litigations had however turned out to be expensive and time consuming.

“Perhaps, a rethink and remodelling has become necessary to explore the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism as an alternative to litigation.
“INEC believes that this is viable and the upgrading of ADR Unit to a Directorate and the modest success it has achieved has vindicated this position,’’ he said.

The Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Prof.  Abubakar  Momoh, said the conference  was organised to find better alternative to election litigations considering the huge cost of electioneering and electoral litigations.

“We must have a way to reduce this and to improve the trust and credibility of ballot in this country. This is what the conference is about,’’ Momoh said.

He was of the hope that with the conference, the judiciary would be less
politicised, address the fact and evidence as well deliver justice to those who truly deserve it or won at the ballot.

In his address, the West Africa Representative, Ford Foundation, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, said the important, of the conference was underscored by the observation of the presidential election petitions in Africa.

“A lot of elections these days are being determined in the court chambers where judges and justice sit to salvage badly organised elections, relying on electoral jurisprudence that place disproportionate burden of proof on petitioners, often scarcely resourced of position candidates and parties,’’  Chukwuma said.

He expressed hope that the conference would contribute in finding solutions to the intractable problem around organising credible elections in Africa, starting from Nigeria.

Jega equally said the commission was poised to engage the services of about 750,000 ad hoc staff for the conduct of the 2015 general election.

He said the decision taken by INEC to engage the services of corps members as ad
hoc staff was to ensure free, fair and credible elections, saying as fresh graduates from the universities they have not been polluted with the lust for money.

He further revealed that the issue of engaging the services of security in the area of effective intelligence gathering was paramount, saying their main responsibility would be to identify major flash points with a view to averting chaos during the elections.

The INEC chairman said political elite must strive to give the 2015 general election the chance to be conducted without rancour and acrimony, stressing that inducing election officials with money would only compromise the outcome of the elections.

He maintained that the 2015 general election would not be swayed by primordial considerations, affirming that INEC would prove its efficacy as an impartial arbiter and the task of making a credible choice lies at the feat of the electorate.

He also said 75 per cent of the voters’ cards have been distributed and that no one would ever be allowed to vote by proxy.

He stressed that once such a gimmick was allowed, the gains of the elections would be defeated.

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