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ONLY IMPROVED VOTERS' REGISTER CAN GUARANTEE FREE ELECTION – OYEGUN

By NBF News

Fiormer Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has said that only a relatively improved new voters' register with biometric details of voters would enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free, fair and credible elections that would become a reference for future generations.

The former governor who made the view known in Benin yesterday has, therefore, advised the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega to make use of people from the civil society and Non- Governmental Organizations to supervise INEC's Ad hoc staff in the field to carry out the voters' registration exercise.

The ANPP chieftain while also advising Prof. Jega to be available to attend to complaints from Nigerians, urged him to translate his vision for credible election into reality in the electoral field.

'This means that the personnel to be used in the compilation of a new voters' exercise are empowered and are available. This is a country from one's experience where there is need for a standby for time bomb. So, he should do whatever it takes, at whatever cost to write his name into the books as one of those who build modern democracy ,' he advised.

Chief Oyegun also commented on the raging controversy over whether President Goodluck Jonathan should assent to the amended constitution or not, saying, 'I would have thought it is one of those things where his signature is mandatory, meaning that he cannot refuse to sign.'

While stressing that it was proper that the president appends his signature to the amended constitution, he asked rhetorically: 'Who is going to sign it: The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a combination of both?'

Meanwhile, Professor Jega has appealed to the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to help smoothen and strengthen the relationship between the Commission and the media.

Professor Jega made the appeal yesterday when the President of the NUJ, Mohammed Garba, led a delegation on a courtesy visit to the Commission.

The INEC chairman expressed delight at the cordial relationship between the media and the Commission. He regretted, however, that some level of unprofessionalism and lack of objectivity tended to manifest themselves in reports filed on the Commission by reporters.

Said Professor Jega: 'Once in a while we see evidence of unprofessionalism and the need to be objective and report fairly. In the past few weeks, we have had a dose of misrepresentation. They're few but unless care is taken, they could create problems.'

The INEC chairman urged the NUJ President to use his office to ensure that journalists do their jobs completely, impartially and as objectively as possible.

Professor Jega said the NUJ represented an important constituency with which the commission intended to partner to satisfy the aspirations of Nigerians for free, fair and credible elections.

The INEC Chairman said the Commission under his watch was determined to give Nigerians better election outcomes, stressing that the Commission could not achieve this alone.

Earlier, the NUJ President, Mohammed Garba had decried the imposition of a timetable by the National Assembly for the 2011 general elections. He argued that such an imposition interfered with the Commission's new-found independence. He asked the members of the National Assembly to review the decision and give the Commission the latitude to fix the timetable for elections.

The NUJ President called on the National Assembly to remove all impediments on the way of the Commission to enable it produce a credible voters' register.

Alhaji Mohammed Garba said that henceforth, elections in Nigeria must meet the expectations of stakeholders in the electoral process. He commended the INEC Chairman for interfacing with the media and sharing with them ideas concerning the immediate challenges which the Commission faced.