By PREMIUM TIMES
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, has told Nigerian federal lawmakers he could not guarantee the 2015 general elections will hold on rescheduled dates in March and April.
At a meeting with Senators Wednesday, Mr. Jega said he could not commit himself to the “sanctity” of March 28 and April 11 – dates for the rescheduled Nigeria’s general elections.
He said the electoral commission could not guarantee aspects of the poll that are beyond its control.
Mr. Jega met with the lawmakers to review the decision to postpone the polls from February.
Under the Nigerian law, a further six-week extension of the elections is possible, a prospect opposed by many Nigerians, the main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, and the international community.
INEC had said the postponement were necessary for security reasons, as military chiefs had warned against going on with the vote to allow it focus on fighting the terror group, Boko Haram.
But the APC said the delay was instigated by President Goodluck Jonathan, to save him and ruling party from losing the elections to the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
Since announcing the new dates nearly two weeks ago, the commission has declined to clearly confirm that there will be no further delay beyond March 28 and April 11, for presidential, National Assembly, governorship and state assembly polls.
Responding to a question by George Akume, Senate Minority Leader, on the sanctity of the new dates, on Wednesday, Mr. Jega said it was difficult for him to respond, saying he could only give assurances over aspects within the control of INEC.
“That’s a very difficult question to answer. I have said not everything that has to do with the conduct of successful election is within the control of INEC,” Mr. Jega said.
Use of card readers
Mr. Jega also said the commission will go forward with its plan to deploy card readers for the elections.
There have been some concerns, mainly from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, about the plan as Nigerian law prohibits electronic voting.
On Wednesday, while PDP Senators opposed the plan, their APC counterparts welcomed it.
Heineken Lokpobri, a PDP Senator from Bayelsa State and Odion Ugbesa, from Edo State, argued against the use of card readers for the elections, saying it would be illegal.
In his response, Mr. Jega said card readers would only be used for accreditation not actual voting.
He said there was no law forbidding the use of electronic devices for accreditation.
“Card reader is used for accreditation not voting. Voting his defined as dropping of ballot paper into ballot box. Accreditation is essential for integrity of the election,” he said.
“Nothing in the constitution says we should not use electronic device in the process of accreditation. Anybody that is not satisfied can go to court. We have solid ground on that,” he said.
He added that the card readers would curb electoral malpractices, as cloned cards would be detected.
Mr. Jega said INEC will perform a mock test on the card readers.
He said some tests had already been taken in the United States, and will now be tested in the six geopolitical zones.
“The card reader has passed in all the 13 test categories conducted in terms of its durability and versatility,” he said.
Mr. Jega said the postponement of the general elections will enable INEC to have a flawless, near-perfect elections.
INEC National Commissioners are to visit state offices to conduct evaluation and comprehensively determine the level of preparation in the election.
He said after the visit, the commission will meet with the heads of departments and directorates of units to conduct a comprehensive assessment, to figure out additional things to be done before March 28.
Mr Jega said a meeting with the inter-agency committee on security will hold a meeting to discuss security on the Election Day.