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Professor Attahiru Jega
Newly appointed chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring free, fair and credible polls in 2011.

Saturday Sun can exclusively report that the fire-spitting INEC chairman is planning to put in place measures to block electoral leakages, which has, for many years, placed the country in the comity of nations with appalling electoral records.

The measures, it was gathered, are a product of a pain-staking nine-man research team put together by Jega immediately it became clear he was going to lead the electoral body. Membership of the team, it was learnt, authoritatively, cuts across the academia, civil society coalition, labour, professional bodies and other interest groups.

First, in recognition of the fact that the vastness (in terms of land mass) of the country has often militated against the conduct of a credible election, the Jega's INEC research team, has strongly recommended that the 2011 general elections be staggered into six weeks that would cover the six geo-political zones of the country.

'As part of the new plan,' said an impeccable source close to the research team, 'election is expected to hold in each zone per week, during which all staff of the electoral body would be moved to the particular zone, where the elections would take place.'

By this arrangement, it would be practically impossible for dubious politicians and agents of rigging to perpetrate their nefarious activities, since Jega would personally be on ground to provide leadership to the INEC staff and other personnel in the zone.

In the past, said the source, 'INEC had been stretched too thin with the result that they became ineffective monitoring and conducting elections, thus it was easy to compromise the few officials on ground. But with INEC staff moving to a zone in a particular week, it becomes easy to supervise the processes.'

It was gathered that the Jega research team, which has been working quietly for some weeks now, equally recommended the discontinuation of the use of ad-hoc staff for the conduct of future elections in the country.

'Teachers, civil servants and other ad-hoc staff that are easily compromised during elections would no longer be used,' the research team submitted.

However, INEC would put into effective use corps members (NYSC), members of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Police and other para-military personnel.

The research team further recommended that Resident Electoral Commissioners should not be allowed to serve in their states and possibly their zones, 'for obvious reasons,' during the conduct of the elections.

In the same vein, the committee recommended to the INEC chairman that members of the Nigeria Police should not be made to serve in the zones they are currently serving but should be rotated among the various zones to check undue influence.

'The implication of this is that those whose stock-in-trade has been the use of policemen and other security personnel to subvert the people's will would be disappointed. They will just wake up on election day to find policemen that are not familiar to them, thereby making it difficult trying to induce them in any of the zones, as they would not know who they would be dealing with until the eve of election,' Saturday Sun authoritatively gathered.

The INEC is, however, concerned about how to get the police fully involved in the new arrangement, even as it has put in place strategy aimed at ensuring logistics the police would need is captured in its budget for the election. The commission plans to disburse funds to police for its logistics during the election.

Saturday Sun gathered that the research team recommended the immediate announcement of election results the same day poll is conducted in a geo-political zone. The implication of the plan is such that at every zone, all governorship candidates, National Assembly and state houses of assembly results as well as the presidential election would be made known before proceeding to the next zone.

The measure, it was gathered, is expected to help check attempts to manipulate election figures anywhere in a particular zone, just as candidates would participate, through their appointed agents, in the collation of election results.

President Goodluck Jonathan, in appointing Prof. Jega, had said that the INEC chairman would be a credible person that Nigerians would be proud of, even as he added then that he had never met him before his appointment.

Jega, during his screening by the Senate, declared that he was not for sale, apparently making reference to the possibility of paying back the President for the favour of appointing him as chairman of INEC.

With some of these measures in place, Jega hopes Nigerians can go to bed knowing that their votes will be counted and count in the making of their leaders.