INEC defends deployment of card reader, military at polls
• Reports of my terminal leave a distraction, says Jega
• ‘Why we want commission chief removed’
• Lagos APC cautions against brigandage
AGAIN, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has defended the deployment of soldiers and the commission’s use of the card reader for the forthcoming elections, saying the equipment will add value to the credibility of the polls.
The commission said it is also “doing everything humanly possible” in addition to other logistical deployment to be able to conduct a hitch-free poll that will be fair, credible, and remarkably better than the 2011 elections.
This came as the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega yesterday dismissed insinuations that he was being prevailed upon by the powers that be to proceed on terminal leave midway into the conduct of the forthcoming election.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCN), a non-political organisation that comprises several ethnic groups in the South West has called on Jega, to proceed on terminal leave as from March 24.
The group also called for Jega’s replacement with a credible administrator before the polls
But Lagos State APC has warned the OPC against sponsored brigandage in the state.
Jega said: “Nobody has asked me to go on leave. A lot of things being said out there are diversionary. I have a job to do until April 11, 2015. We have a job to do and we are determined to do it for the country. We need to move forward not backwards. And we are doing everything possible to ensure that nobody is disenfranchised.”
Addressing a town hall meeting by Re-Event Media Limited, with suppot from Ford Foundation, Channels Television, Kukah Centre and WE FM in Abuja yesterday, the INEC boss said the authorities have used the period of the postponement to address the myriad of concerns about the card reader, adding that the body has satisfactorily conducted a quality assurance as well as field tests on the workability of the equipment hence INEC’s determination to deploy it for the polls.
Jega, who also fielded questions at the event, insisted that using the card reader will aid the commission to eliminate “cloned cards” during the conduct of the election.
He pointed out that the card reader will only read cards that have been produced and issued by the electoral umpire, as well as facilitate easy audit of accreditation of information in case there are concerns about fraudulent alterations of results.
Giving an update on the Permanent Voters Card (PVCS) collection across the states generally, the INEC chairman disclosed that 68.8 million people registered with the electoral umpire, adding that 67.8 million of the cards produced have already been taken to states for distribution.
He, however, lamented the nationwide collection level of the cards which, according to him, was only 56 million, adding:
“There are millions of cards out there that people have not gone out to collect. Of these 68.8 million, about 700 thousand cards are still being produced and will be distributed to the states next Saturday.
“If we get to March 28 and people have not come forward to collect the PVCs, then you cannot talk of INEC disenfranchising those people,” he noted.
The INEC chairman also gave backing to the security arrangement so far put in place by the relevant authorities for the purpose of the conduct of the election, but cautioned that the military must be restricted to its role as defined by the constitution if there is a breakdown of law and order.
Defending the deployment of soldiers for the forthcoming elections, Jega said: “They are there so that if there is a breakdown of law and order which the police are unable to contain, then they could be rapidly deployed to assist.
“The army is not supposed to be visible or to be around any polling unit unless there is a breakdown of law and order and they have been invited by the Inspector General of Police. As far as we are concerned, the role of every security agency as it affects the electoral process is to add value but within the constitutionally defined roles,” he said.
Some members of the coalition led by the National Coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Gani Adams, held a rally in Lagos yesterday causing traffic jam in the state.
For several hours motorists plying the Lagos Ibadan Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Third Mainland Bridge, Funso Avenue Way, Mile 12/Ikorodu Road and others were held up in traffic snarl as the rally took off from Seven Up area at about 9 a.m. and terminated at the Stadium Bus Stop around 3 p.m.
The group said it hinged its call for Jega’s replacement, on the grounds that Nigerians have lost confidence in the leadership of the electoral umpire “to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country.”
Explaining reasons behind the call for Jega’s removal, Adams said: “Over five million people are yet to obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) in South West, over 2.5 million in the South South and two million in the South East, while Jega claims to have recorded 90 per cent distribution in the North despite the high level of insecurity in the North East.”
He also accused Jega of illegal registration of the under-aged in the North and Chadian, Nigerien and Camerounians.
According to him, “Over one million PVCs have been recovered from the foreigners by security agents while Jega could not give explanation.”
Adams further said Jega has been playing a well-scripted Northern agenda as he has positioned Northerners to the most sensitive INEC position, adding that the creation of over 30, 000 polling units now termed voting centres in the North was aimed to shortchange the South.
The OPC chief also faulted Jega for awarding the contract of sensitive INEC materials such as PVC and ballot papers to foreign companies with alleged link to the APC, adding that the INEC’s chairman initial insistence of holding the election on February 14 was a plot to create chaos and national unrest in the country.
In a statement yesterday, the APC spokesman, Joe Igbokwe described the rally as part of the syndicated demonstration the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was sponsoring all over the country to disrupt the forthcoming polls, which it is now convinced it cannot manipulate.
The party said that the syndicated protests by MASSOB and OPC are desperate efforts by a failed government to create confusion and trouble so as to sabotage the election when it has become obvious to the PDP that it had lost the support of Nigerians.
It warned that more of such purchased mercenary protests are in the offing as we inch close to the critical 2015 election.
According to Igbokwe: “It is instructive that the purchased campaigners are destroying campaign posters and bill boards of the APC in their mercenary traits and this tells so much of the mission they are sponsored to do. It says that Nigerians must see in what is happening today the consuming desperation of President Jonathan and PDP to pull down the Nigerian house when it has become obvious that they have lost the support of the people.
“No one should be surprised at what is happening today because it reflects the last acts of a dying junta desperate to use every means to remain in power. It is obvious that Jonathan and PDP have given up hence the open and bizarre sponsorship, bribery and inducement to militia groups through generous dollar bribes and contract bazaars, for the purpose of creating enormous crisis and confusion in a bid to scuttle the coming elections.”