2011: INEC Canvasses For March/April Date As Political Parties Endorse Shift
ABUJA, Sept 21, (THEWILL) - The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is close to getting a time extension beyond the January 2011 date for the general election as political parties have agreed to the commission’s request to move the general elections from January.
Rising from a six-hour stake holders meeting with leaders of the 62 registered Political Parties in Abuja, INEC asked for two or three months extension of the timelines to give it ample room to conduct successful general elections.
However, the Chairman of the Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, came under fire from the party leaders who said they had seen much earlier the booby trap in the provisions in the Electoral Act and the impracticability of the timetable released by his commission but that the INEC boss kept on harping on the fact that all was well.
Though, the Party leaders commended the courage of Professor Jega for crying out loud having seen that the time lines were not workable, they one after the other threw their weight behind the time extension plea without compromising the May 29 hand over date.
Majority of the Political Party leaders, including the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo and a chieftain of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Alhaji Buba Galadima, spoke passionately in favour of an extension of the timetable.
After listening to Jega on his frustration over the choked timetable, they agreed almost in unison on the need to move the polls by extending the electoral timetable. Of all the party leaders who spoke at the parley, only the National Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Prince Chudi Chukwuani and one other person, had a divergent view on the issue. They preferred that the status quo be maintained.
The parties however agreed that the staggered elections as provided for in the Electoral Act should be abolished and demanded that elections should hold same day.
In response to the questions on what proposal Jega and his commission have on the time extension, the INEC boss said: ''We need additional two months, which means the election will hold in March but for us to conduct a good and credible election, and also seen to be free, fair and transparent which will reduce litigation, we may need to hold the elections in April."
The INEC Chairman had relayed to the party leaders the communiqué issued after its last weekend retreat in Calabar, Cross River State, in which it stated that they might through legal means demand for more time to conduct the 2011 general elections.
Some angry party leaders said they had suggested that the time for the elections should be moved and were ready to take the message to the National Assembly, for the Electoral Act and the Constitution to be amended but that Jega did not buy into it.
Other issues that were discussed at the parley were Monitoring of primaries and nominations; monitoring of convention and congresses; monitoring of campaign expenses; and selection of party agents.
Political parties took turn and time to canvass for the shift of election date for three months, with the position that May 29th the day of handing over should not be tampered with.
Speaking at the occasion, Alhaji Buba Galagima of the CPC, canvassed among others that there must be a globally positioning system on the Direct Data Capturing machines for easy tracking. The machines should be programmed in such a manner that it has an opening time and a closure time.
''In all votings' done, it must be saved in the Server at INEC, which can be retrieved immediately or passed to the websites of political parties, one hour after elections.
So, even before the result comes, INEC should have known how many people who voted nationwide in the elections and political parties are also in the position to know that also so that when the time comes - when results become different from what is being collected automatically it means that the election has been mitigated,'' Galadima said.
"The features of the machines are simple - You register with the same machines and you accredit with the same machines," he said.
On the position of the National Assembly on all this, Galadima said, "National Assembly has no position. Jega has the whole country behind him. Whatever changes he wants in the electoral act and the constitution must be complied with by government because they push blames to him, he should push it back to them. I support the shift in the election date and expect election to hold in April. The election I am canvassing for can be conducted on May 29th, winners declared on May 29th and winners can be sworn in that 29th because there will be no need for anybody to go to court".
But for Prince Chudy Chukwuani of NDP, election should hold according to the timetable earlier released by INEC. He argued that it is law that election should hold by Janaury and INEC should not think of moving the election because his party is prepared for the elections.
Also, the National Chairman of National Transformation Party, Mr. Mok Emmanuel, said whatever is legally possible will be acceptable to his political his party.
Earlier in his speech, the INEC chairman lamented the turn of events and said that it was not the Constitutional responsibility of INEC to establish or change the legal framework, including timelines for electoral activities.
"Consequently, to canvass the change in the legal framework or constitutional provisions on election dates would only be inappropriate, but could open the commission to public suspicion, given the well known recent electoral history of Nigeria. The question of fixing and changing election dates has been one of the major sore points of our electoral experience in Nigeria. The degree of partisanship that usually inform discussions of these issues is legendary.
"Consequently, we decided as a commission that direct involvement in such debate could undermine the independence of INEC in the public eyes, and we deliberately chose to keep away from it," the INEC Chairman said.