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2011: WHY INEC WON'T USE SOLDIERS, BY JEGA

By NBF News
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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega  has foreclosed the deployment of soldiers in the forthcoming elections. Jega who was represented by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC), Mr. Martins Ogunfolami spoke yesterday during the 2010 press week of the Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), saying the constitutional role of the Army was to defend the territorial integrity of the country and not to conduct elections.

Concerned Nigerians have expressed the fear that there might be need for the deployment of soldiers during the forthcoming elections because of the ugly events of the past.

According to the INEC boss: 'Although I have visited the Army Commander here at Alamala, I have told him that I don't pray for anything that would make me ask for the deployment of soldiers in the forthcoming elections.

'I don't envisage a situation which will be beyond the competence of the Police. I don't pray for the situation that the Resident Electoral Commissioner will be so handicapped that I will call on the Army to provide security.

'We, as a Commission, are not banking on the Army for the election, but rather, we rely on God and the Police for a successful election.'

He also maintained that the Commission lacked the power to disqualify any aspirant.

He said it was only the political parties that could handle such a matter and urged them to present credible candidates to avoid disqualification in the elections.

Also speaking at the forum, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola supported the call by many concerned Nigerians for the establishment of an Electoral Crimes Commission to punish elections riggers and those who benefit from the electoral frauds.

He said such a commission was necessary to stop the ugly tide of electoral malpractices.

The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and former Lagos State Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yemi Osibajo among several others had canvassed the establishment of the anti-electoral fraud commission.

Speaking on the topic: 'The Role of the Political Class in ensuring a hitch free 2011 election', Fashola said true democracy thrives on free and fair election, just as  he urged politicians to stop the practice of intimidating and harassing voters.

His words: 'A situation where a serving political office holder was reported to have stormed polling stations with mobile policemen in order to harass and intimidate the electorate could only move us steps backward in our democratic aspirations.'

Although Fashola said it was impossible to rule out the use of money in politics, he said it should be used positively.

'A situation where politicians put money inside loaves of bread should be condemned, he said.

He also condemned what he described as godfatherism syndrome.

'A situation where rich godfather sponsors a candidate and expects him to give him monetary returns after being elected should be abolished,' he noted.

For a credible election, the governor said youths, who are regarded as leaders of tomorrow, should be enlightened on the need to ensure that they were not used as political thugs to disrupt elections.

'Political class should avoid the use of our youths, as the case in previous elections, as weapons of destruction. The political class also has a role to play in ensuring that women are enlightened on the need to educate their children. This is to guide against their being used as political thugs to disrupt the elections.'

In his own speech, the Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel charged the media not to deviate from their constitutional role of setting agenda for the good of the masses.

According to the governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Sina Kawonise, the media had a critical role to play in any credible elections.