INEC, others meet over PVCs, IDPs
• Group urges elections in victims’ camps
•APC alleges fresh plot to scuttle polls
AHEAD of next month’s elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday held a meeting with leaders of all registered political parties over the issues of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the relocation of polling units in some states.
In a related development, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), I-Nigerian Initiative has urged the INEC to ensure that it did not disenfranchise Nigerians currently living inside IDPs camps.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday raised the alarm over fresh moves by anti-democratic forces to use the courts to postpone or scuttle next month’s general elections.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega had earlier disclosed that the commission on agreement with the political parties would relocate polling units that are located in areas where undue influence could affect voting.
Such polling units, according to the commission, were located at residence of traditional rulers, politicians and shrines.
Speaking while declaring open the meeting, Jega noted that the parley would review the preparations for the conduct of the forth coming polls as well as provided the updates on the INEC’s preparations.
He added that the parley was an opportunity not only for INEC to brief the political parties but also to listen to their concerns and observations so as to take them into account in the final preparations for the elections.
“I must acknowledge with tremendous appreciation the contributions of all the political parties in those meetings we have had in the last few years. Undoubtedly, it has been an opportunity for us to bridge the communication gap and develop mutual trust and confidence which could arise in the absence of good communication.
“I want to use this opportunity to reassure all of you that we are working very seriously to ensure that we prepare adequately to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections as we promised Nigerians. I want to also assure you that we are committed to ensuring that the elections will be much better than the ones we conducted in 2011.
“We believe that we all know that there will be challenges which are already in the public domain and in the media like the challenges of the distribution of the PVCs, however, we feel confident that with the various mechanisms we have put in place, this challenge is one we can overcome and we will do well in advance of the conduct of the general elections.
He added: “However, we will like to appeal to the various stakeholders to join hands with us in addressing these challenges by particularly urging Nigerians to be patient with the delays in the distribution of the cards and also to remain resolute in coming out to collect their voters’ cards.
“We believe that the use of PVCs will go a long way to improve the integrity of the electoral process. It will minimise if it does not totally eliminate some of the most persistent fraudulent activities that have characterised our electoral process.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to work together with you-the political parties as well as the various stakeholders to ensure that the aspirations of Nigerians for the smooth conduct of the free, fair and peaceful elections would be guaranteed,” he noted.
National Coordinator of the initiative, Ada Stella Apiafi who gave the advice yesterday during an interaction with reporters in Abuja said that the result of various visits by members of the group to IDP camps both in the FCT and parts of the northeast showed that a great number of the inhabitants were politically active and already registered to vote before crisis displaced them.
According to her, the camps were particularly tranquil with inhabitants electing their own officials who were seeing to the smooth running of the camps.
Apiafi also implored relevant authorities to ensure that the reports submitted by the Initiative about the findings in the camps were looked into and followed in order to ensure that lives of the IDPs were made as conducive as possible and that their rights and privileges were not trampled upon.
On the February l4 elections, the National Coordinator warned both politicians and sympathisers of political parties to desist from utterances that could cause disaffection within the polity.
In addition, Apiafi lamented the violence already introduced into politicking like burning vehicles of opponents, stoning candidates of other parties, shooting opponents and bombing party secretariats and venue of rallies.
“We must remember that whoever wins the election is a Nigerian and the country must remain one, indivisible entity whichever way it goes. The country belongs to all of us and so, we must uphold the national interest and ensure national peace before, during and after the elections,” she emphasised.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the APC called on the judiciary to protect the nation’s democracy and on Nigerians to repudiate the desperadoes and their allies who are behind the plot.
Stating that in spite of all efforts to stop the APC presidential candidate, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, failed, the party noted that those it termed “anarchists” had moved on to the next chapter, which is to use the courts to stop the elections at all cost.
The party claimed that the case instituted at a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday, seeking a declaration that Buhari lacked the requisite qualification to contest the February 14 election, was the first in a series of court cases to be instituted just so that the elections would not hold.
“We are not surprised at this, because these desperadoes are so predictable. They are following the footsteps of the infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) which helped to annul the 1993 elections and which threw Nigeria into a crisis from which it has yet to fully recover, over 20 years later.
“We can only appeal to the judiciary not to become a willing tool in the hands of those who will stop at nothing to scuttle the elections, just to perpetuate their firm grip on power,” APC said.
The party said that the truth was that President Jonathan was very much aware that if the elections went ahead as scheduled, he would lose to Buhari by a landslide, adding that the President and his allies were terrified of meeting the APC at the polls.
“An ally of presidential aide Doyin Okupe has revealed that President Jonathan will rather have the military take over than hand over to the APC candidate. Though Okupe has made a tepid denial, the revelation has exposed the thinking and the desperation within the presidency, ahead of the elections.
“We are also aware that up till this moment, the President has yet to repudiate the ex-militants in the Niger Delta who have threatened the country’s very existence if he is not re-elected, as if elections are won by fiat. When this is added to ongoing moves to depopulate the Northeast, which is an opposition stronghold, using scare tactics, one can see that this presidency and the PDP are as terrified and desperate as they can be,” it said.
APC also warned those who were manipulating some elements among judiciary workers, either to proceed on strike just so that the courts would not be able to sit on cases that could affect their candidates or to end the strike so they could seek to use the courts to achieve their objectives of truncating the elections, to desist from such acts.
“In particular, we will like to remind the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mohammed Bello Adoke to advise his principal and his aides not to abuse the courts or use it as a tool to truncate democracy. They must be careful not to throw the country into chaos for selfish reasons,” the party said.