Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, yesterday gave the assurance that the commission will meet the expectations of Nigerians for credible elections.
This comes as some youths, under the aegis of Middle Belt Concerned Youths, staged a protest at the headquarters of INEC, Abuja, against the use of permanent voter cards (PVCs) and card readers for the general elections.
Jega, who made this pledge at a meeting with resident electoral commissioners (RECs) to review preparations for the forthcoming elections, said the election managers would examine identified gaps and other matters concerning the polls in the next few weeks, stressing that the commission was doing its best to ensure free, fair and credible polls.
The meeting might be the last before the March 28 presidential election, and comes barely 24 hours after INEC declared its satisfaction with the outcome of the field test of the card readers last Saturday in 12 states.
But speaking at the meeting, Jega said it was to have a final review for the preparation of the elections.
He said the meeting would review outstanding matters relating to the distribution of PVCs and the mock test of the card readers.
The INEC chairman assured that “our best will be good enough in terms of meeting the aspirations of Nigerians for free, fair elections.”
He said the commission would do everything possible to ensure a near perfect process and get the support of all stakeholders.
He said the commission would conduct an electoral process in line with the laid-down code of conduct, just as he urged candidates to respect the peace accord they signed at both the presidential and state election levels as such would promote stability and development in the country.
At the electoral umpire’s head office in Abuja, the Middle Belt Concerned Youths stormed the vicinity at about 10:14am, but were prevented by armed policemen and other security agents who cordoned off the area.
Although the security personnel prevented the protesters from gaining access to the office, they were received by an assistant director, Security, Victor Egbo, who received their protest letter with a pledge to deliver same to the commission’s chairman.
The youths said they were at INEC to register their opposition to the use of PVCs and card readers because of what they described as the failures recorded during the recent mock test of the card readers last Saturday.
President of the group, Comrade Yunusa Yusuf, said: ”Judging from what transpired during the exercise, it has been proven that the batteries of these card readers do not function for more than three hours. The question, therefore, is: what happens if the battery fails during the election proper, especially in the rural areas?”
He further alleged that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and INEC planned to rig the forthcoming elections, saying that the claim of APC supporters in Kano and Lagos states that the machines were functional were a mere cover-up.
“For the simple fact that APC and INEC are on the same page on the use of PVCs and card readers speaks volumes about their plans to rig the forthcoming polls, which all right-thinking and well-meaning Nigerians must resist with vigour,” he said.
“If APC supporters in Kano and Lagos states claimed that the electronic machines did not fail during the mock exercise in their states, they are simply playing to the gallery; it is a cover-up and a far cry from the ugly reality staring everybody in the face.”
The youth leader further argued that even though the group acknowledged the keenness and innovations institutionalized by INEC to bequeath free and fair elections to the nation, “it is still the contention of majority of Nigerians that such efforts must not be sacrificed on the altar of a fool-hardy insistence of proceeding with the use of PVCs, despite the glaring imperfections inherent in them.”
According to him, insisting on using them for the elections will only end up disenfranchising a huge segment of Nigeria’s voting population.
“We frown at this orchestrated plot to disenfranchise a high preponderance of eligible Nigerian voters by INEC as epitomized in its determination to go ahead with the use of PVCs and card readers regardless of the genuine concerns expressed by relevant stakeholders in the polity, a development that is likely to compromise the integrity of the elections.
Yusuf posited that unlike the temporary voter cards (TVCs), which are easy to obtain and use during elections, PVCs are a bit technically-complicated for an average rural dweller.
According to him, instead of its insistence on using PVCs and card readers, INEC should rather be thinking of fashioning out alternative measures of ensuring the success of the elections that will not only be acceptable to Nigerians, but also meet international standards.