The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Friday dismissed calls for the postponement of the February 14 presidential election and the February 28 governorship election, stating that the commission would implement the elections guidelines to the letter.
This is as the All Progressives Congress (APC) has vowed to galvanise mass action against any attempt to shift the February 14 date for kick-starting of the general elections in the country.
Also, Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State and senator representing Kwara central senatorial district at the national assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, urged Nigerians to reject any attempt by self-seeking politicians to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the February elections in the country.
However, prominent lawyers like Professor Itse Sagay SAN, Nigerian Bar Association President, Augustine Alegheh, SAN, and Festus Keyamo said the electoral umpire had the right to postpone elections going by the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
Sagay said “You definitely cannot postpone it in the sense that it will be held at a date later than 90 days to May 29 and it cannot be held later than 90 days to May 29. For that to happen they have to give a reason and the national Assembly have to meet and pass a motion in support of it. That is the only way elections can effectively be postponed. INEC Fixes the date but it is restricted within a period and that period must not be later than 90 days to expiration of the tenure of the government in office”.
Reminded that the period was close to the elections, he said, “Yes but it is a very short allowance. In fact, by the time you look at February 14 and you count three months from then, we are talking of less than two weeks margin. So it really doesn’t worth it”.
Alegeh said the provisions had to be followed and that at this stage, given the date when the tenure of the current regime would end, fiddling with the date could lead to constitutional crisis.
“INEC always have the power for stated reasons to reschedule elections but not to change the date constitutionally set out for the election. If for example, election is for Saturday and due to any challenges as we have seen in the past INEC can do so. And that is why when INEC is fixing date for elections, they tried to give some allowances so that if there is need to move by one or two days it will be easy.
But we must all appreciate that this transition is going to end May 29 and election must be held within 90 days. And in any event, from the little that we have read the ground for proposing to postpone the election is the PVC, what is the assurance on ground that the PVC situation will change if you move the election. We still have some time between now and Election Day and government can run machinery of letting people know how to pick up their PVC. On the side of the NBA, it became aware of a particular website that you could go to and you just key in your temporary voters card in and you will be able to know the exact location to pick up you PVC.
“We have circulated that to all our lawyers. Those are kind of measures that can be taken now to ensure that people know where their cards can be collected and they do not need to be travelling miles to pick their PVC. So, for me these are the steps that need to be taken. I may not be correct but I don’t think that postponements of the elections could solve the problems. Moreover, it is not a new problem, we have been speaking of this problem for a very long time and we have had sufficient time to sort the problem out, not to wait until the last day and start to say that the elections should be postponed. At least the talk about PVC has been on for well over three months so why is it that suddenly, three weeks or thereabout to the election we now believe that by postponing the elections will do the magic. And for how many days or how long? These are the issues. Personally and on our part as NBA, we believe that postponing the election will not solve any problem rather we should take more progressive steps to ensure that people can get their PVC”, he said.
Keyamo said, “INEC has the power to organise elections and to the extent, that it has power to organise election, it has power to determine the dates for those elections. So INEC has power to reorganise the dates for elections. Remember 2011, at the last minute INEC called off the elections. On the day they were to hold the election, there were a lot itches on that day and it was on that same reason that Prof. Jega announced the postponement for another one week. That was what happened in 2011. However, I must say that in this era of mutual competition between the parties and this era where the political atmosphere is charged, any postponement of election will be the recipe for another June 12. And if we are not careful, it may lead to military intervention and we are all going to be the potential victims. So, INEC must be very careful because any postponement of election will lead to wide spread riot.
“It’s very simple, because everybody sees it as a ploy by the ruling party to manipulate the process. It is Jonathan’s Special Adviser that threw the kite way in London saying that he has advised the INEC to postpone the election. Now you have a situation where the kite flew by the SA and INEC concede, anybody will come to the conclusion that INEC is working hand in hand with the ruling party to truncate the process.
“That was the practical mistake the ruling party made; they should have allowed INEC itself to fly that kite. INEC should have come out that it’s not ready; INEC should have come to say it need more time to organise things.
But for the ruling party to allow a member of the government to do it, everybody will come to the conclusion that INEC is working with the government to truncate the process. It is the mutual suspicion that is the problem”.
He said, "We have issued an election guideline since 2014 and we are very busy implementing the election guidelines as published by the commission. And we shall implement that election guidelines to the letter.”
Jega who refused to comment on the position of the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki that the election should be postponed, said, “I don't want to comment on this. Like everybody, we read it in the papers. I myself have read many things that have been attributed to me which I know I didn't say. So until I can confirm and get clarification, it will be premature for me at this public event to start saying anything. I have no comments on it.”
He also said that elections would take place in 155,000 voting centres across the federation, while there are 8000 collation centres for all the elections.
Speaking at the launch of the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) Mitigation of Violence in Election (MOVE) Project, he said that the commission had taken delivery of more 38 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) out of the expected 68 million PVC, stating that, “If the push comes to shove, that the distribution of the PVC would be extended to February 13, the eve of the presidential election.”
He said that would ensure that every registered and eligible voter collected his or her PVC and cast their votes in a free and fair elections. He announced that INEC Thursday received additional 4.1 PVC, while assuring that all eligible voters must have their voter cards before the elections.
Jega announced the decentralisation of the distribution and collection of the PVCs from Monday to Saturday from 8.30 am to 5pm every day.
The INEC boss also pointed out that the commission could not be blamed for people who refused to come out and collect their PVCS which had been produced and sent to various collection points across the country.
He said the commission had continued to produce PVCs to meet the 68 million registered voters already captured and certified by the commission to be genuine even as it revealed that about 4million cards were received by the commission on Thursday.
Jega also identified some trouble spots where he said all should take precautions over as Edo, Rivers, FCT, Bauchi, Plateau Imo.
He said these places are prone to violence on the ground that the outcome of their primaries and frustrations associated to the PVCs distribution.
These and other possible causes informed the workshop with civil society organisations to promote aggressive voters enlightenment.
Jega reiterated the position of INEC that the elections would be conducted with only the PVCS which had been tested and proved to be valid for elections that would stand the test of time on matters of integrity of the ballot, pointing out that anyone calling for the use of the temporary voters card in the February elections are only drawing the nation back.
The INEC chairman who described the newspaper advertorial wishing the All Progressive Congress (APC) Presidential candidate death as shocking, urging newspapers to exercise some caution in accepting and publishing some advertorials as it is capable of inciting violenece.
“Without hindering the press freedom, I think it is absolutely necessary for newspapers to exercise some restraints. You need to be careful on what you write, so that it does not lead to conflicts and violence.”
Jega also said that there were massive movements of electoral materials from the commission’s headquarters to the states, urging the security agencies to exercise caution in the arrest and detention of vehicles conveying such electoral materials.
He said that the vehicles arrested by security agents carrying electoral materials in Ogun and Bauchi states were actually carrying lawful duties.
APC’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary Timi Frank while speaking to Journalist in Abuja yesterday during the launch of a book written about General Muhammadu Buhari's attributes, said the opposition party would rally Nigerians to march on the streets to protest any move aimed at postponing the February election.
"That call is a call against Nigerians. It is an anti people's call. To me, that was a personal view of the National Security Adviser. He is not speaking for Nigerians, he is speaking as a person that call will not stand. We will resist that as Nigerians to any manner ways you can think of because this is a proper democratic process. One man or a group of persons or a cabal cannot change the decisions of Nigerians.
Frank who spoke against the backdrop of the statement credited to the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki that effect that elections might be postponed to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conclude the distribution of PVC, said any postponement in the election date could lead to anarchy.
"If the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not prepared for the elections, let them back out of it but Nigerians are already to go into the election and nothing on earth can change that date.
"As a party, we are going to mobilise Nigerians against it and we are going to do everything possible you can think of to ensure that election holds and that it is free and fair.
"The call for the postponement of the election is a call to anarchy. It is another June 12 that is about to happen in Nigeria, where you know already that a winner is emerging and you cannot stand that, you call for the cancellation of the election date. For God’s sake this can lead to a revolution, if Nigeria is not a peace-loving country by now the whole country would catch fire.
On the book written by a member of the Buhari Support Group , Mr. Blessing Agbomere, he said nothing most aptly captures the good qualities of the former Head of State than what the writer put together under the title, '72 Attributes of Buhari, the Good Samaritan'.
Speaking in similar fashion, the Buhari Support Organization on Friday in Abuja rejected the suggestion by made by Dasuki for the postponement of the forthcoming general elections by one month, warning that the consequences of such action could be disastrous.
The Head, (Media, Information Management and ICT) in BSO, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, who gave the caution while speaking to Journalists appealed to the global community to appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to keep strictly to the terms of the Abuja Accord.
He said the shift in the election date would be tantamount to rigging and an admission of defeat by the PDP.
We are totally taken aback by the suggestion made yesterday (Thursday) by the NSA at Chatham House, London to the effect that the February 2015 elections be postponed. As the NSA, he is a very highly placed figure and a close associate of Mr. President.
"It is expected that he should be very conversant with the security implications of such postponement and would rather advise to the contrary, even if that was what the boss would have proffered. These are all indications that the PDP does not truly want an open democratic contest in which Nigerians will decide who leads them, after this corrupt dispensation.
"We totally condemn, in its entirety, such careless, provocative and crisis-prone statement from such very high level of government. This is certainly the high point of the serial breaches to the Abuja Accord by the government. This suggestion is intended to overheat the polity by causing severe disaffection among the generality of the public with attendant disastrous consequences."
According to him, the inglorious days of Association for Better Nigeria was about to be birthed in the political history of the country in which the ABN was used as a platform to dubiously campaign for the annulment if June 12 1993 presidential election, said to have been won by late philanthropist, Chief MKO Abiola.
Another chieftain of the APC and the national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Mr. Tony Momoh said the appropriate organ that will make the request for the postponement of the election was INEC which had not done so.
"NSA is an individual and he expressed an opinion which he has even denied.
INEC said they are prepared. Is NSA INEC? Momoh said the NSA must have been misquoted. People want change and they will not fight. We have been asking for change.
"They know we are more than the PDP now and so anybody who is asking for postponement is the one who is not sure of their stand in the election. There will not be postponement, there will be election, it will be non-violent, it will free, fair and transparent, the results will be announced and the heavens will not fall," he said.