SENATE SUMMONS JEGA, OVER UNGUARDED, UNWARRANTED STATEMENT
Mark & • Jega
The Senate yesterday urged the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega to do his work and stop pointing the finger at the wrong direction. The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly also directed Prof. Jega to appear before its Joint Committees on INEC and Public Petitions this week to defend what the Senate described as his 'unguarded and unwarranted' statement against the federal legislature on the 2011 general elections.
The Senate position followed a motion under Matters of Privileges brought by the Senate Chief Whip, Kanti Bello during which, he said, he read newspaper stories in which the INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega was quoted as having said the National Assembly was delaying the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, thus threatening the conduct of the 2011 elections.
Senator Bello said if Prof. Jega's statements were not checked, they could be misinterpreted by the public. He, therefore, urged the Senate to summon the INEC boss to appear before it to clarify his accusation.
Jega had on Monday, while briefing European Union Ambassadors on the preparations of INEC so far, said the continuous delay by the National Assembly in amending the 2010 Electoral Act and the second alteration of the 1999 Constitution would hamper the smooth conduct of the 2011 general elections.
In his contribution, Senator Abubakar Sodangi (PDP Nasarawa) said care should be taken by the Senate not to glorify Prof. Jega by inviting him to appear at the Senate plenary session. He said the INEC boss should be referred to the Senate Committee on INEC
Also speaking, Senator George Sekibo (PDP Rivers) said he suspected a grand conspiracy against the National Assembly, adding that it was baffling that when some people were unable to do their work, they shifted blame on elected public officers. Sekibo stressed that if INEC is having problems, it should summon the courage to say so and not shift blame.
According to Senator Sekibo, 'when Prof. Jega appeared before the Senate Committee, he made everybody to believe that once he was given money, he would go ahead with the preparation for the 2011 elections, but since he collected the funds, it has been one excuse or the other. If INEC has problems, let us see how we can help them.'
Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP Enugu) said the INEC chairman was not taking advantage of the open window offered him towards the preparation and conduct of the elections, but was rather struggling to point the finger at the wrong direction.
While referring the matter before the Senate Joint Committees, Senate President David Mark noted that the National Assembly had done everything humanly possible for INEC, saying when the INEC chairman appeared before the Committees on Appropriation and INEC for its budget defence, the figure it presented before the committees was different from what he eventually submitted for approval.
According to Senator Mark, 'the figure the INEC later brought was over N14 billion higher, yet, the National Assembly allowed it to go so that the public would not think that the National Assembly was depriving INEC of anything for the conduct of the 2011 elections.'
'If INEC fails in its duties, it should not hold the National Assembly responsible. If the statement credited to Jega is true, then he owes the National Assembly an explanation.