Nigeria News

NIGERIA: Oguta Re-run to Wait – Jega

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, Tuesday in Abuja, said the by-election in Oguta, Imo State, would have to wait until the safety of the commission's members of  staff was guaranteed.

Speaking at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Meeting organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Jega  explained that INEC had to declare the election inclusive because the votes  yet to be cast could sway the result of the election.
He said  unless those participating in the election guaranteed the security of INEC's staff, the election would remain inconclusive as the commission was not prepared to put the lives of its workers in jeopardy.

He said: "There were polling units where election did not take place due to violence. After tabulating the results, it was discovered that a candidate scored  9,000 plus while another had 7,000 plus. There are about 4,000 votes at polling units where election has not taken place. That can sway the result.

"In the circumstance, the necessary thing to do is to declare it as inconclusive. The election  is a very bad election because the politicians decided to make so.

"We will not conduct the election unless the safety of our staff is guaranteed. When the atmosphere is right, we will go there and conclude the election. We cannot subject the lives of our staff to jeopardy. They must guarantee the safety of our staff."

Speaking on preparation for the next general election, Jega said security remained a challenge.

He said lack of capacity to prosecute those arrested for electoral offence encourages violence.

The INEC boss said the commission was overwhelmed by electoral violence even as he said the commission lacked the capacity to prosecute those who violated the electoral law.

He said: "We have prosecuted over 200 offenders. But that is a drop in the ocean.  But INEC lacks the capacity to prosecute."

Jega called for the implementation of the Justice Mohammed Uwais committee's recommendation that a special agency be created to prosecute electoral offenders.

"We are overwhelmed by the enormity of cases that needed to be prosecuted. But we are doing our best. But we need help. We have to rely on police investigation while court is very slow," he said.

He called on the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act so as to correct the anomaly created by section 31.

The section required INEC to accept any candidate the political parties sent to it whereas the Electoral Act also required parties to conduct primaries to select candidates.

He said the commission did not have a choice but to accept the candidates sent to it by parties even though those candidates might not have emerged through primaries.

Jega said during the 2015 elections, voters would only be able to vote at the polling units where they registered.
He said the commission did not have the infrastructure to allow people to vote at anywhere they choose.

"You can only vote where you register. That is the law. There are challenges with technological constraints. Like real time internet.  It is not possible to do multiple voting," he added.

He also said the card reader to be deployed during the next general election will have a voice.

He said: "If your voter card is verified, it will say so and if not it will say not verified. We are borrowing this from Ghana.  Anyone whose card was not verified should not be allowed to vote. Party agents must support electoral staff to ensure compliance."

He also said it was not true that directors in INEC were skewed in favour of his geographical zone.

The INEC Chairman said the commission had complied with the Federal Character Commission Act in the distribution of appointments.

He said the restructuring of the commission had been concluded and that there were nine departments, 10 directorates and four autonomous units.

The INEC chairman said one of the most significant innovations introduced in the electoral process as the country moved towards 2015 was the permanent voters' card (PVC) that had a microchip with a bio data of each voter and which would  be read on presentation to officials by Card Readers at each polling unit.

He said: "While each card has information unique only to a specific voter, voters will be required to authenticate that information by scanning their finger prints on the card readers. Thus, the PVC is easily electronically verifiable using networked smart card readers that will be deployed to each polling unit."

Jega said there were other benefits of the smart card reader. They include equipment and material checklists, notification of when accreditation starts, total number of people accredited at a polling unit and vote collation.

He said: "Already 20 million permanent voters’ cards have been delivered and the rest will be delivered according to a set agreement by mid 2014. Since we recognize that distribution has always been a challenge, we have taken appropriate steps to develop a distribution plan for the cards to ensure tat registrants get their cards on time. With this arrangement quite a number of irregularities and challenges noticed by observers and our own officials during voting would be addressed."

On continuous voters’ registration exercise, the  INEC chairman pointed out that "while the commission had planned the continuous voter registration exercise to begin in the first part of the second quarter of this year, certain logistic reasons had prevented us from doing so. However, the planning and logistic arrangements for the continuous voters’ registration exercise have been concluded and will commence before the end of this quarter.

"It will begin with the display of the current voters register in both print and electronic forms. Persons wishing to be added, changed or moved will be required to fill a disclaimer form and will then be issued  with a queue ticket indicating the time, date and bio-data on DDCs. The continuous voters’ registration will take place at ward levels where two DDCs will be stationed with our officials.

One of the DDCs together with the printed register for that ward will be used to check whether a prospective registrant is already on our database, while the other will be used to register those that were not. Clear guidelines will be issued shortly," he declared.

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