Begin Campaigns, Get Sanctions, Jega Warns Politicians
The Chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Monday read the riot act to Nigerian politicians who have started campaigns ahead of the 2015 general elections, saying their names are already being compiled for possible sanctions.
Jega, who disclosed this while fielding questions during a live television programme monitored in Lagos, said it had become nauseating to see politicians breach the Electoral Act, which stipulates that candidates can only begin campaign 90 days to an election.
He described this act as impunity on the part of the politicians, recalling that political parties in the country had earlier voluntarily signed a code of conduct, among other things, and promised not to overheat the polity.
He said, sadly, the same agreements signed to by the politicians are breached recklessly by the politicians belonging to the same parties.
“When you look around, what you see are fundamental breaches against these agreements,” he said, adding that the police and other security agencies are already compiling names for sanction
Lamenting further, he said the breaches by politicians in the country against the code of conduct is part of their mentality, a mindset that they “must win by hook or crook, that if I don't win, then everyone must loose.”
He listed the pasting of campaign posters and billboards as part of such breaches, saying the candidate or aspirant is also guilty for allowing his associates or friends paste such on his behalf.
“Posters and billboards also fall within the offence. Candidates and parties have an obligation to prevent their candidates and sympathisers from breaking the law,” he said, stressing further that a candidate has no excuse whatsoever for having his posters pasted by other people.
He however said pasting of posters is different from political rallies as the latter are meant for the party members to gather and discuss issues with the party, their challenges and way forward.
“There is a thin line in rallies. It may be to promote the natural progress of the party and not the candidate. If a party goes there to say vote for me, then you have crossed the rubicon.
“You can't have your poster pasted and you sit back and say someone put it there on my behalf. If someone put it there, why did you not stop him?” he asked.
Concerning the timetable for the election, he said INEC had not deviated from the norm and that fixing the presidential and National Assembly elections same day was to solve logistic problems and not to show INEC's partisanship.
“It is the same sequence. All we have done is to collapse the two national elections. We don't want to do elections in one day.
“Also, rather than do elections in three days, we decided to do it in two days and this is according to global best practices,” he said
Jega complained about issues of logistics, saying this was a major problem facing the commission.
He added that INEC was making progress against all odds.
“We have been doing our best to improve logistics even though we have not achieved 100 percent,” he said while pleading with the media to engage in soul searching before writing negative stories about INEC as their stories had further undermined the electoral body that had been weighed down by “baggage of doing things wrong. So people do not give INEC the benefit of doubt.”
He also said the commission was seriously preparing for the gubernatorial elections Ekiti and Osun states later this year, promising that the voters would use the permanent voters card as a pilot experience for 2015.
In 2015, he said, the INEC would make use of card readers that would screen the cards, and certify voters verified and qualified to vote through a voice application that would mention the word: 'verified.'
He said the card reader is safe as it would not work if stolen and used in any other place apart from the polling unit for which it has been configured.