The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has maintained that the commission cannot disqualify the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), even if he does not present his senior school certificates in the future.
Jega, who spoke on Wednesday night during an interview on a Channels TV programme, titled, Straight Talk With Kadaria, said those asking the commission to disqualify Buhari were free to go to court.
He said the Electoral Law permitted that if any presidential candidate cited any documents that he could not produce, he could swear to an affidavit.
On the eligibility of Buhari and the calls for INEC to disqualify him, Jega said, “When a political party presents a candidate and he meets all the requirements of submission -deadline and the forms- INEC cannot reject such a candidate.
“There is a provision that the candidates should provide documentary evidence of whatever qualification they have cited, but the law also permits that if you cite documents and you don’t have photocopies, you can swear to an affidavit and in this case, INEC by the provision of the section 31 of the Electoral Act cannot disqualify an appropriately nominated candidate of any party. We can deregister a political party, but the law says we must accept any candidate; it is a matter for the court, they are free to go to the court.”
The INEC boss also allayed fears over cloned Permanent Voter Cards, allegedly made to rig the forthcoming elections.
He said any cloned PVC would be detected by the card readers.
He said, “They can attempt to clone our cards but they cannot succeed. The card reader would detect any fraud. We are 100 percent sure that no cloned card will be used.”
Responding to a report that the Department of State Service had access to INEC’s database, Jega also dismissed the claims.
He said although the DSS approached INEC to carry out investigations on certain electoral crimes, the commission didn’t release the private data of voters to the DSS.
He said, “By law, we are supposed to protect the secrecy of the voters and we have a lot of information in our database. We have not made our database accessible to anybody. The DSS came to investigate, they asked questions and we are willing to assist any security agency to do a thorough investigation to determine whether there is a crime or attempt to commit a crime.”
Speaking about his plans after the end of his tenure in June, Jega said he would go back to teaching.
“I came into this job, I did my best. I think five years is okay for anybody to make a change and allow some other people to take over and do their best. I am grateful to the Almighty God who gave me the opportunity to discharge these duties well. I supervised the 2011 elections that were adjudged one of the best elections in the country. We are the only administration that has conducted two elections consecutively and we are doing everything possible to make all a success. I will return to teaching after my tenure ends.”