The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in a fix about a possible run-off in the presidential election between the two leading candidates, General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan.
The 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) stipulates the organisation of a run-off within seven days of a presidential election, if there is no outright winner at the first ballot.
Sources at INEC now say seven days are too short to prepare for a run-off in respect of the presidential or governorship election.
There is already a proposal to amend that section of the Electoral Act at the National Assembly since 2012.
Investigation showed that INEC is in a fix over possible governorship and presidential run-offs, especially between President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(APC).
The timetable for the 2015 poll published by the Secretary to INEC, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu, on January 4, 2014 included a caveat for run-off.
It said: “Note: Run-off election to the Office of President or Governor of a state (if any) will be held within seven days after the announcement of the result of the election in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(FRN).”
Another key official of INEC said: “The more the process becomes credible, the likelihood of a presidential run-off. But INEC management is in a fix on how to go about the presidential run-off, if it becomes necessary for the nation to go through it in 2015.
“The seven-day gap between when the presidential election will hold and the run-off is not feasible for us to print ballot papers, result sheets and distribute the sensitive election materials nationwide.
“In 2011, we did anticipatory printing of ballot papers for presidential run-off, but some people/groups wrote petitions against INEC. They said we printed run-off ballot papers ahead because we wanted to rig the elections.
“They also accused INEC of wasting taxpayers’ money on run-off ballot papers when the poll did not hold. Some of our officials were taken to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), queried and subjected to unnecessary interrogation.
“With this nasty experience, INEC will not want to print presidential run-off ballot papers in advance again. It has learnt its lessons in a hard way.
“But in 2012, we made a proposal to the National Assembly for the amendment of the seven-day clause in the Electoral Act for more days to prepare for any run-off.
“As I speak with you, the National Assembly is yet to effect the amendment. This kind of lapse can lead to more electoral challenges in 2015.
“And at the end of the day, Nigerians will be blaming INEC. If you ask me now, I will say we have no position yet on how to go about any run-off.”