INEC insists on conducting polls in troubled states

Jega INEC• Promises level-playing for all contestants

• Warns politicians against violence

• Dismisses plan of hacking its database

• NHRC cautions commission over voting in IDPs camps

AMID frustrations and uncertainties of whether the conduct of the forthcoming next month elections could be possible in the three northeastern states troubled by insurgency, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given assurance that all preparations were in top gear in effectively conducting elections even in the camps of the internally-displaced persons.

  He added that all efforts towards allocation of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) in the IDPs’ camps were in the forefront as the electoral umpire wishes to see a greater percentage is covered in the areas during elections to come.

  The National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who disclosed this at a two-day conference organised by Bayero University, Kano, yesterday, with the themed “INEC and the 2015 General Elections: Expectations, Prospects and Challenges”, held at Musa Abdullahi Auditorium of the university, said the 2015 elections pose remarkable challenges in the country as all stakes are high. 

  Besides, Jega, who yesterday re-affirmed that smooth conduct of next month general elections in the country is largely achievable but hinged on critical and formidable conditions, dismissed any possibility of hijacking the commission’s database for the purpose of cloning voters’ cards.

  He gave assurance that all the permanent voters’ cards under production would be ready for onward distribution before the end of January.

  He said: “But at the end of it all, it is the voters that will give the final decision in the process. As election management body, we will do our possible best to provide a level playing ground.”

  In another development, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for caution on compilation of all the areas that are affected by the Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs).   

  The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, yesterday warned that the commission must exercise some caution while compiling the areas of IDPs, saying that internally-displaced people are scattered all the over the country as against the three northeastern states where the commission is paying more attention. 

  Odinkalu, who blamed the Nigerian Refugee Commission and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for failing to take responsibility of identifying with the IDPs, warned that the issue of constitutional crisis may pose a problem if the commission decides to recognise a certain IDPs and disenfranchise others, stressing that the electoral body must ensure elections take place in all the displaced persons’ centres in areas like Kaduna, Plateau and Nasarawa states together with Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

  To discourage violence during elections, Jega insisted that winning election was not determined by burning of tyres in the streets or through stuffing of ballot boxes by some misguided politicians during election period.

  While commending the synergy going on presently between the electoral umpire and other stakeholders, the INEC boss, worried that the general tendency of politicians could be severely challenging to the election process, said: “We are humans and we are doing our best, but that could not be enough and that is why we are calling on all stakeholders to also put in their best. Together, we can ensure that free, fair and credible elections are held. Nigerians should also use their election rights and improve in the credibility of the exercise.”

  He said that good elections are not the business of the election management body alone, but it is a duty of all and sundry, stating that “INEC is not a magician, so people should not expect us to do magic in the process. That is why we are saying all hands must be on deck. We did our best in the last four years.”

  Earlier, the chairman of the occasion, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammadu Uwais, commended INEC for all the preparations ahead of next month’s polls, saying that the responsibilities on INEC were heavy and daunting.

  He dismissed the actions of some politicians as sad and very discouraging.

  In his own remark, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone One, Tambari Yabo, warned politicians and their supporters against violence in the forthcoming elections, assuring that security agencies would provide level playing ground for all political parties and politicians in the coming February polls.

  Yabo said: “We are determined more than ever before to provide a level playing ground to see that we have free, fair and credible election in this country where all other countries in the world will look up to us for exemplary election process and procedures.” 

  Meanwhile, the High Commissioner of Canada in Nigeria, Mr. Perry J. Calderwood, has described issue-based campaigning as the best campaign system in a democracy.

  Calderwood, who said this at a Canadian Embassy sponsored photo exhibition tagged Too Young to Wed, held at the Thought Pyramid Art Gallery in Abuja, said: “In a democracy, the best campaign is one where you discuss issues, the challenges of your country, you propose solutions and have a debate around those.

   “So, we very much hope and call on all of Nigerian politicians to make another democracy to operate in that way and to refrain from saying things that would be unhelpful.”

  The Canadian envoy, who disclosed that Canada has provided $6 million in funding through the UN Development Programme to strengthen governance in Nigeria, said: “INEC obviously has a very important leadership role in delivering the elections. That’s in the principle of the form of support we provided.

  “Our hope and expectation is that there will be free and fair, transparent and peaceful elections.”

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