Presidency waves security joker to push polls shift

JegaThe Council of State will be told today in Abuja that the February 14 and 28 elections cannot go on for security reasons, The Nation learnt yesterday.

The eminent citizens will be told that the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast will not make the elections feasible.

The Jonathan presidency, according to sources, will be seeking to postpone the elections for at least two or three months.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insists that it is ready for the elections, which its chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega has been under pressure to shift.

A source said last night that some security chiefs had joined the pressure to make Jega change his mind and embrace the polls shift plot, which many fear may spark a huge constitutional crisis.

INEC’s determination to conduct the elections has caused anxiety within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Presidency.

All Progressives Congress (APC) governors met in Abuja last night over the matter.

The Service Chiefs, it was learnt, will brief the Council of State on security in the Northeast particlularly. They make a case for “a few months to carry out a mop up operation” after which they will ask to assume the guardian of security for the nation and thereby direct INEC to shift the election.

Members of the Council of State chaired by the president are: Vice President, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker, Chief Justice of Nigeria, governors, former Heads of State, Government, former Chief Justices of Nigeria and Attoney – General of the Federation/Minister of Justice.

On the judicial and political plane a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is the arrow head of the postponement campaign.He is being used to talk to people in the judiciary and the political class, many to whom he has shared millions of naira in the hundreds. The 16 parties that have now lined up to request for election postponement were each bribed with a whopping sum of 250 naira million each according to some members of the parties,” a source said.

The Presidential Campaign Organisation of the APC yesterday urged the National Council of state to put the interest of the nation above selfish interest and refuse to be drawn into the controversy of election postponement.

Spokesman of the Organisation Mallam Garba Shehu said in a statement that considering the zeal of Nigerians for change and their passion to vote, there should be no excuse to deny Nigerians the right to exercise their franchise.

He said since INEC, which is constitutionally empowered to conduct elections is saying it is ready for the elections, there is no basis to contemplate its shift on the grounds of politically-expedient excuses.

He said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission is the custodian of the electoral process and should therefore be given a free hand to conduct the 2015 general elections in line with the laws of the land.”

He explained that since postponement of the election is a serious national issue, the Council of State members should vote according to their conscience when the issue of election postponement comes up for consideration.

Shehu reminded members that their honour and integrity are at stake, and therefore, they must weigh the implications of an election postponement.

Lagos lawyer Femi Falana yesterday said the Council of State has no power to postpone elections.

In a statement Falana said the council was one of the federal executive bodies established by Section 153(1) of the constitution.

He said the role of the council is merely advisory.

The council is constituted by the President, with him as the Chairman, Vice President as the Deputy Chairman, all former Presidents and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation, all former Chief Justices, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Governors of the States, and the Attorney-General of the Federation as members.

The council is vested with the power to advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to:

•National population census and compilation; publication and keeping of records and other information concerning the same

•Prerogative of mercy;

•Award of honours

•The Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission).

•The National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex officio members of that Council), and

•The National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of the Commission); and advise the President whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order within the Federal or any part thereof and on such other matters as the President may direct.

He said: “From the foregoing it is crystal clear that the council has no power to take a decision on any national policy but to advise the President in the exercise of his powers in the aforementioned matters.

“With respect to the INEC, the council may advise the President in the exercise of his powers to appoint the Chairman of the INEC, the National Commissioners and the Resident Electoral Commissioners.

“Since the power of organizing and conducting the general election including the fixing of dates for the election is the exclusive responsibility of the INEC the council of State is not competent to advise the President or direct the INEC to postpone the General Election.”

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