Jega’s speech on poll timetable

Jega’s speech on poll timetable
FEBRUARY 8, 2015 BY Alex Uangbaoje
STATEMENT ON THE TIMETABLE FOR 2015
GENERAL ELECTIONS BY THE CHAIRMAN,
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL
COMMISSION (INEC), PROFESSOR
ATTAHIRU M. JEGA, AT A PRESS
CONFERENCE ON FEBRUARY 07th, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Introduction
We invited you here today to make known
the position of the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) on the
timetable for the 2015 general elections. Let
me state from the outset that the
Commission’s position was reached after
carefully weighing the suggestions from
briefings held with different stakeholders in
the electoral process.
The conduct of elections in a country like
Nigeria is invariably a collective venture that
involves not just the Election Management
Body (EMB), but also a diverse range of
stakeholders, notably security agencies,
political parties and their candidates, voters,
as well as interest groups, such as the civil
society organizations and the media. To
guarantee successful conduct of elections,
there are things that are wholly the
responsibility of the EMB. But there are
other things critical for the success of
elections, which fall outside the control of
the EMB.
In other words, while INEC must work hard
to perfect its systems and processes for
conducting elections, and take
responsibility for any imperfections thereof,
whatever the Commission does may not by
itself be sufficient to guarantee the success
of elections. There are a number of issues
in the preparation and conduct of an
election, the most critical of which is
security, which is not under the control of
INEC.
Current State of INEC’s Preparedness
On Thursday, February 5, 2015, I was
invited to brief the National Council of
State, which is the highest advisory to the
President comprising past and present
leaders in Nigeria, on the level of
preparedness of INEC to conduct the 2015
general elections. I made a presentation to
the Council titled ‘Preparations for the 2015
General Elections: Progress Report,’ in
which I gave a detailed account of what the
Commission has been doing in readiness
for the national elections (National
Assembly and Presidential) scheduled for
February 14th, and the state elections
(Governorship and State Assembly)
scheduled forFebruary 28th, 2015.
The summary of my presentation to the
National Council of State meeting is that,
for matters under its control, INEC is
substantially ready for the general elections
as scheduled, despite discernible challenges
being encountered with some of its
processes like the collection of Permanent
Voter Cards (PVCs) by registered members
of the public.
In addition, INEC has been doing everything
it can to facilitate the collection of the PVCs
by registered members of the public. As at
5th February 2015, the total number of
PVCs collected was 45, 829, 808,
representing 66.58% of the total number of
registered voters.
In the delivery and deployment of electoral
materials, INEC is also at a comfort level in
its readiness for the general elections as
scheduled (see the presentation to the
Council of State). The Commission’s
preparations are not yet perfect or fully
accomplished. But our level of
preparedness, despite a few challenges, is
sufficient to conduct free, fair and credible
elections as scheduled on February 14th
and February 28th. Compared with 2011
when, within a short time, we conducted
general elections that were universally
adjudged free, fair and credible and the
best in Nigeria’s recent electoral history, our
processes aretoday better refined, more
robust and therefore capable of delivering
even better elections.
Other Variables
But as I mentioned earlier, there are some
other variables equally crucial for successful
conduct of the 2015 general elections that
are outside the control of INEC. One
important variable is security for the
elections.
While the Commission has a very good
working relationship with all security
agencies, especially on the platform of the
Inter-agency Consultative Committee on
Election Security (ICCES) since its inception
in 2010, it has become pertinent for it to
seriously consider the security advisory
presented to it by the Security and
Intelligence Services. I would like to
reiterate here that INEC is an EMB and not a
security agency. It relies on the security
services to provide a safe environment for
personnel, voters, election observers and
election materials to conduct elections
wherever it deploys. Where the security
services strongly advise otherwise, it would
be unconscionable of the Commission to
deploy personnel and call voters out in such
a situation.
Last Wednesday, which was a day before the
Council of State meeting, the office of the
National Security Adviser (NSA) wrote a
letter to the Commission, drawing attention
to recent developments in four Northeast
states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and
Gombe currently experiencing the
challenge of insurgency. The letter stated
that security could not be guaranteed
during the proposed period in February for
the general elections.
This advisory was reinforced at the Council
of State meeting on Thursday where the
NSA and all the Armed Services and
Intelligence Chiefs unanimously reiterated
that the safety and security of our
operations cannot be guaranteed, and that
the Security Services needed at least six
weeks within which to conclude a major
military operation against the insurgency in
the Northeast; and that during this
operation, the military will be concentrating
its attention in the theatre of operations
such that they may not be able to provide
the traditional support they render to the
Police and other agencies during elections.
INEC’s Decision
We have done wide ranging consultation to
enable us have as much input as is
necessary before taking an informed
decision. In the series of consultations that
we held with stakeholders, the questions
consistently posed to them for
consideration are:
In view of the latest development, should
INEC proceed with the conduct of the
general elections as scheduled in spite of
this strong advice; and if so, what
alternative security arrangements are
available to be put in place?
Or, should INEC take the advice and adjust
the schedules of the general elections
within the framework of Constitutional
provisions?
The Commission held a meeting after the
consultations, and decided to take the
advice of the Security Chiefs and adjust the
dates of the elections. We have done this
relying on Section 26(1) of the Electoral
2010 (As Amended), which states thus:
“Where a date has been appointed for the
holding of an election, and there is reason
to believe that a serious breach of the peace
is likely to occur if the election is proceeded
with on that date or it is impossible to
conduct the elections as a result of natural
disasters or other emergencies, the
Commission may postpone the election and
shall in respect of the area, or areas
concerned, appoint another date for the
holding of the postponed election, provided
that such reason for the postponement is
cogent and verifiable”.
INEC not being a security agency that could
by itself guarantee protection for personnel
and materials, as well as voters during
elections, the Commission cannot lightly
wave off the advice by the nation’s Security
Chiefs. The Commission is specifically
concerned about the security of our ad hoc
staff who constitute at least 600,000 young
men and women, together with our regular
staff, voters, election observers as well as
election materials painstakingly acquired
over the last one and half years. This
concern is limited not just to the areas in
the North-eastern part of Nigeria
experiencing insurgency; the risk of
deploying young men and women and
calling people to exercise their democratic
rights in a situation where their security
cannot be guaranteed is a most onerous
responsibility. Under such circumstances,
few EMBs across the world, if any, would
contemplate proceeding with the elections
as scheduled. No matter the extent of
INEC’s preparedness, therefore, if the
security of personnel, voters, election
observers and election materials cannot be
guaranteed, the life of innocent young men
and women as well the prospects of free,
fair, credible and peaceful elections would
be greatly jeopardised.
Consequently, the Commission has decided
to reschedule the 2015 general elections
thus: the national elections (i.e. Presidential
and National Assembly) are now to hold on
March 28th, 2015; while the state elections
(Governorship and State Assembly) are to
hold onApril 11th, 2015. It should be noted
that this rescheduling falls within the
constitutional framework for the conduct of
the elections, notably, Sections 76(2),
116(2), 132(2) and 178(2). See also Section
25 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended).
For the avoidance of doubt, we will under
no circumstances approve an arrangement
that is not in line with the provisions of our
laws. Our hope is that with this
rescheduling, the security services will do
their best to ensure that the security
environment needed for safe and peaceful
conduct of the 2015 elections is rapidly put
in place.
We in INEC reassure all Nigerians and
indeed the international community of our
commitment to do everything within the
law and to conduct free, fair, credible and
peaceful elections. We call on the security
agencies to honour their commitment to
restore sufficient normalcy for elections to
take place within the period of extension.
We also call on Nigerians, political parties,
candidates and all other stakeholders to
accept this decision in good faith and
ensure the maintenance of peace.
As for us in INEC we’ll endeavour to use the
period of the extension to keep on
perfecting our systems and processes for
conducting the best elections in Nigeria’s
history. In particular, we believe that we
would resolve all outstanding issues related
to non-collection of PVCs, which agitate the
minds of many Nigerians.
Finally, we wish to call on all Nigerians to
accept our decision, which is taken in good
faith and the best interest of deepening
democracy ion our country.
Thank you.
Professor Attahiru M. Jega, OFR
Chairman

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