Pressure mounts on Jega to postpone elections

Jega44.7m cards collected

Advocates of postponement seem to be getting more desperate, with the presidential election just 11 days away.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega is under pressure to shift the elections from February 14 and 28. He remains firm, insisting that the commission is prepared for the all-important exercise.

The pro-shift agitators have:

•instituted four suits in the courts, pleading that INEC should be told to pull the brakes on the elections;

•said that the insecurity in the Northeast makes a shift imperative; and

•marched on the INEC headquarters yesterday to push their case.

Besides, security agencies have asked INEC to explain four issues which, they said, will assist them in taking a stand.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki was hit by a hail of criticism when he suggested in London that the elections could be shifted for would-be voters to get the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

To INEC, however, the cards will be no excuse for shifting the elections.

INEC has so far distributed 44, 741,759 cards.

The figure represents about  65 per cent of 68,833, 476 registered voters for the  general election.

Jega is expected to speak tomorrow on whether or not the polls will go ahead as scheduled.

INEC arrived at the new figure after an evaluation session in Abuja, according to sources.

A top source in INEC said: “As at Monday, 44, 741,759 Permanent Voters Cards have been received by their owners. We are hopeful that by February 8, the figure would have become higher than this because the response of eligible voters has been encouraging.

“I also want to place on record that all the PVCs for the 68,833, 476 registered voters have been received by INEC and distributed to all the 36 states and the FCT.

“It is important for the public to know that 65 per cent of eligible voters for 2015 poll have collected their PVCs. This implies that we can go ahead with the election.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “There is no cause for alarm at all because we have extended the period for the collection of PVCs to February 8.

“If you look at the 2011 poll, during the presidential election, 40, 728, 990 voted but only 39,469, 484 votes were valid and 1,259,506 votes invalid.

“While in  2007 about 35,288, 984 voted during the presidential election, the figure for 2003 was 42, 018,735, including 2,538, 246 invalid votes.

“Even in 1999 when the stake was higher following anxiety over the return to democracy, the voters’ turnout was 30, 282, 052. The acclaimed June 12, 1993 presidential election recorded 14, 293, 396 votes.”

To the source, who pleaded not to be named, Nigerians voting history has shown that less than 50million usually votes.

“All the noise about PVCs is the handiwork of some elements who are looking for an excuse to shift the poll at all cost,: he stressed, adding:

“So, we are convinced that we are still within the projection of the average voters turnout during our past general elections.”

Jega will on Wednesday lay all the cards on the table before Nigerians on INEC’s preparedness and the sanctity of the timelines.

“Our indices are ready, we will present these for all the stakeholders to assess us. There are so many vested interests who do not see anything good in what INEC has done,” the source said, adding:

“We woke up today to hear rumours of the resignation of Prof. Jega as INEC chairman when he was busy holding series of meetings in the office.”

Security agencies  are likely to meet with INEC “before the end of this week.”

They are likely to, according to a source, discuss:

•likely disenfranchisement of voters;

•effect of litigations on PVCs on the outcome of the elections;

•on relocation of many polling units; and

•confusing Business Rule of removing four million registered voters from register without informing them.

“The relocation of polling booths from private school, churches and mosque is a welcome development. Has  INEC informed woul-be voters? Can’t this development lead to confusion on voting day?” a source said, adding:

“The confusing Business Rule has ensured the removal of at least over 4 million registered voters, who are yet to be aware of the removal of their names; if they may require re-registration or recapturing as INEC promised the Sultan of Sokoto over his plight.”

One of the sources in INEC said: “We are awaiting a session with all stakeholders to clear the air on many issues. But we are yet to be invited by security agencies.”

As at the time of filing this report, Jega was in a crucial meeting with top INEC management staff.

It was not immediately clear what informed the emergency session.

Contacted, a National Commissioner of INEC said: “Jega met with all directors to checklist all preparations for the elections coming up in the next few days.

“It was more of a procedural thing, we wanted to ensure that all hands are on deck and things are working as planned.

“In fact, I can tell you that three meetings were held on Monday between Jega and  his team. He held strategic session with National Commissioners, members of the management and those in technical units and all directors.

“The meetings had nothing to do with any resignation or frustration.”

Chief Press Secretary to  the INEC Chairman said: “The meeting with directors and management staff was a routine one.

“In preparation for the elections, INEC chairman,  National Commissioners and directors had been working late to make sure that all plans work accordingly.”

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