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Release N74B Within Two Weeks Or Forget About 2011 Elections – Jega Warns

Source: SAINT MUGAGA - thewillnigeria.com
PHOTO: PROFESSOR ATTAHIRU JEGA, CHAIRMAN INEC.
PHOTO: PROFESSOR ATTAHIRU JEGA, CHAIRMAN INEC.


ABUJA, July 29, (THEWILL) - As Nigerians continue to reflect on the ability of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible elections before May 29, 2011, Chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega has warned that unless the N74 billion required for a fresh voters’ register is made available within two weeks, the elections may not hold as scheduled.

Jega also made a passionate appeal to the federal government to grant due process waiver on some stringent procurement process to enable the commission meet up with the procurement of registration materials.

Professor Jega who disclosed this today when he met with the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral matters at the National Assembly said that the current voters register is completely unreliable for any credible elections.

The Chairman explained that even if the required funds were provided in the next two weeks, it would take extra-ordinary effort by the commission to meet the deadline for next year’s polls.

According to him, "the time is very, very tight", he said, "we don’t want to leave anybody in doubt about that", he said. "This is a constitutional matter and it is beyond us.

"From the information we have before our hands, we are sure that a clean-up of the existing voters’ register would never lead to a credible election," he said. "During our last retreat in Uyo, we took the existing voters register in electronic form and we spent a whole day taking samples from local governments across the States.

"Between 9am and 9 pm, we were able to cover 19 states and FCT. Having seen samples drawn from only 19 states, it was evident to us that the voters registers as it stands today is deeply, deeply flawed to be a credible basis for free and fair future elections," he said.

The Chairman noted that the best option left to INEC for genuine voters register would require the shifting of the dateline in the Electoral Act forward for the commission to gain additional time that provided for in the present arrangement and sufficient funds provided too.

"It would not be a perfect register and we would do it under tremendous pressure, but we it will be much better than the one that presently exists," he said.

He said that he was glad that the National Assembly has accepted his proposal disclosing that he has also met with President Goodluck Jonathan and subsequently with the Minister of Finance to intimate them with the option of a fresh voters register. "I told them that if the required funds are to be provided through required legal laid down process, "it would also be a futile exercise."

He said that with the National Assembly agreeing to shift the timeline for election till 9th November, based on his calculation, election would hold between 31st December and 30th January. Jega disclosed that with the adjustment, INEC would be able to start the registration of voters up to the 9th of November.

"The time frame is very, very tight, "it is predicated on certain calculations which we have made. The calculation is that, if we can allow three months for procurement, to ensure that all the necessary equipments are procured, all the required personnel are recruited and trained, all the logistics are deployed within three months, then we should be able to, from the last week of October, to the first week of November (two weeks) conduct fresh registration of voters," he said.

On the Electronic voting system, Jega said "But that will mean that within this time, we are able to deploy Direct Capture Machines (DCM) in all the 120,000 voters registration centres in the country. This requires a lot of resources even for the procurement of the machines alone.

He said that having studied the mistakes of the past, the Commission would procure the DCM directly from the manufactures and not from vendors. He said that the commission is already talking with manufactures to choose the best.

"We will spend about N57 billion if we are to purchase directly from the manufactures", he said. "But it will cost about N74 billion if we have to go through vendors", he said. He said that the amount includes procurement, recruitment, training of staff and logistics.