Pro-Jonathan forces eye June as plot against Jega thickens

INEC-Chairman-Professor-Attahiru-Jega‘Jonathan’s lawyer prosecutes case against Buhari’

Proponents of postponement of the general elections are considering June as the new date for the all-important exercise.

Reason: they want to ease out Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, who remains firm that all is set for the February 14 and 28 elections.

Jega and his National Commissioners’ five-year tenure will end on June 13. Those who do not trust his team “to do their bidding” are thinking of a new hand to run this year’s elections, The Nation learnt last night.

But, despite the march on its Abuja headquarters, INEC is forging ahead in its preparations for the general elections.

Prof. Jega has deployed all the National Commissioners and other top officials in the six geopolitical zones for first hand assessment of the readiness of all its state offices for the elections.

The commission is  also keeping an eye on applications before some courts seeking to stop the  elections.

Section 132(2)of the Constitution as amended states: “An election to the said office (President) shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office”.

It was learnt that the second alternative is to capitalise on lapses in the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) or shoddy management of the elections’ logistics to sack Jega and his team.

But Jega enjoys  the confidence of the  international community and cannot be removed midway into the election process unless there is a legal basis for such.

It was gathered that the legal alternative informed the filing of four applications before some courts to seek order to pull the brake on the elections.

A source said: “Those pushing for the postponement of the election want June as the most practicable timeline when all eligible voters would have collected their PVCs.

“They want Jega and his National Commissioners to complete their term on June 13 before the poll is conducted. There are fears that Jega and his team are unyielding.”

But there is a snag: President Goodluck Jonathan’s first term will end on May 29.

“Nigerians may rise against the extension of the present administration beyond May 29, 2015. The permutation has led to other options,” a source said, adding:

“This is why they are thinking of creating a stalemate through the court, with an order stopping the conduct of the poll as proposed. This will leave Nigerians and political parties to return to the drawing board for options.

“One of the options is exploring Section 25 of the Electoral 2010(as amended) which still leaves a window of 30 days before the end of Jonathan’s tenure for the conduct of the general election.”

The section states: “Elections into the offices of the President and Vice-President, the governor and deputy governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly shall be held in the following order…the date mentioned shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the House stands dissolved.

“An election to the said office of the President shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.”

Another source said: “If Jega and his team fail in the distribution of PVCs and falter in logistics for the poll, the affected forces will pressurise the government to sack them and raise a new group to conduct the general elections.

“And you know INEC does not have total control of all the logistics. So, the plot against Jega and his team thickens.

“A safe net for these forces is for a court pronouncement to stop the conduct of the polls. And by the time all the stakeholders move in and out of the court, the tenure of Jega would have expired.

“The Judiciary will be a good cover for the government to defend the polls shift.”

Responding to a question, the source added: “Ordinarily, INEC would have been overruled on  issues surrounding the preparation for the poll but Jega and his team have international backing.”

INEC officials declined comments yesterday on the twists to the pressure for polls shift.

As at press time, however, Jega has deployed all the National Commissioners and other top officials in the six geopolitical zones for first hand assessment of the readiness of all the state offices for the polls.

A source in INEC said of the trips: “It is a kind of checklist trip because we want to get everything right before the poll.

“We are going ahead with preparation for the conduct of the general election. The INEC chairman will still address the press on Wednesday (today) on the status of our readiness.”

There were fears yesterday that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) may not vote in spite of the efforts being made by INEC to make them participate.

It was learnt that legal hurdles have made it virtually impossible to accommodate them since they were not registered.

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