2011 Election Timetable Unrealistic - ACN

Source: SAINT MUGAGA. - thewillnigeria.com

ABUJA, Sept 09, (THEWILL) - The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has described as unrealistic and a recipe for failure the 2011 general elections timetable released on Tuesday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which shows that the staggered elections will hold in January 2011.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party warned that in order for the country not to repeat its history of electoral woes, and to prevent the billions of naira budgeted for the elections from going down the drain, the National Assembly must show uncommon patriotism by suspending the operation of the amended Constitution until after the 2011 elections, so that INEC can conduct the elections in April.

''The problem of impossible time-lines which the elections face now was not created by INEC, but by the choreographed delayed amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly. By releasing the timetable therefore, INEC has simply demonstrated its readiness to comply with both the provisions of the new Electoral Act and the amended Constitution,'' it said.

ACN said, however, that in reality, INEC knows that elections cannot hold in January 2011 for many reasons.

''From our investigations INEC is yet to award the contract for the procurement of the 120,000 DDC needed for the fresh voter registration. It will take a minimum of 10 weeks from the date of award for the machines to arrive in Nigeria, and INEC will require a minimum of 3 weeks to complete registration and display the new register for claims and objections.

''It will take another 8 weeks or at least 45 days to integrate the data from the over 120,000 polling units before INEC can commence printing of new voters cards. It is therefore clear that INEC cannot have the new voters' register ready before 21 weeks from today, even if the contract for the procurement of the 120,000 DDC machines were to be awarded today, which will bring us to the first or second week in February 2011.

"This is already way past the month of January for which the elections have been scheduled,'' the party said.

ACN said no one could blame INEC for the situation, but that the blame should be laid squarely on the doorsteps of the National Assembly, which wasted so much time before the new Electoral Act and the amended Constitution were enacted into law, even as the latter is being challenged by the presidency at the Supreme Court.

''We know for sure that it was clearly not the intention of the PDP-dominated National Assembly to give us a new credible voters'register, hence the new law prescribing elections for January. In fact, until Nigerians kicked against it, the old voters' register was to be used for the conduct of the 2011 polls, which would have sealed the fate of the polls.

''There is nothing sacrosanct about elections in January 2011. After all, it is not as if all election petitions can be disposed off between January and May 2011, were the polls to hold in January.

''We therefore demand, unequivocally, that INEC be given adequate time to do a thorough job. The 2011 elections are critical to the survival of our democracy and the realisation of the consistent pledge by President Goodluck Jonathan to organize free, fair and credible polls. We cannot afford to fail,'' the party said.