Saturday, February 7, 2015 11:10 pm
Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission today announced new dates for Nigeria’s general elections, because of security concerns.
The Presidential and National Assembly elections will now take place on 28 March, instead of 14 February as initially scheduled, while the governorship and House of Assembly elections will take place on 11 April, instead of 28 February as planned before.
Jega gave the new dates at a press conference in Abuja Saturday night, confirming speculations early today, that the commission would capitulate to the demands by Nigeria’s security chiefs and the National Security Adviser that the polls be shifted by at least six weeks, because they could not guarantee security for the election.
He said security chiefs advised a delay as troops would not be available because of operations against the militants in Nigeria’s north east.
“If the security of personnel, voters, election observers and election materials cannot be guaranteed, the lives of innocent young men and women and the prospect of free, fair and credible elections will be greatly jeopardised,” he told reporters, adding that he has a responsibility to ensure the safety of about 700, 000 electoral staff, including 600,000 adhoc staff.
INEC officials denied speculation early today that the election would be shifted by six week, saying the commission had not reached a decision.
The commission held a series of consultative meetings today, beginning with a meeting with representatives of 25 political parties. Many of the parties reportedly supported the shifting of the election, because of security concerns.
After, the commission met with civil society groups and later its own officials, the resident electoral commissioners. Jega disclosed that the commission also consulted with the director-general of the National Youth Service Corps, where the bulk of its adhoc staff would be drawn from.
“Nobody has forced us to take this decision”, Jega told the pressmen. We stand by the decision. It is the best decision to take in this circumstance. It is not pleasant, but it is a necessary one at this time”.
Jega said apart from the security concerns, the commission had distributed about 48 million Permanent voters cards by 5 February and had reached a comfort zone, in the distribution of non-sensitive materials.
The INEC chairman also disclosed that Boko Haram affacted states, such as Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe have collected between 68 and 80 per cent of the PVCs available. Gombe voters have collected 78 per cent of PVC, Borno 68.2 per cent, Adamawa 80 per cent and Yobe 74.9 per cent.
Asked to respond to allegations that he was hobnobbing with the opposition All Progressives Congress and the Arewa Consultative Forum and whether he would resign on account of this, Jega dismissed the allegations as part of conspiracy theories.
“I am here to do my best for my country”, and said he would resign once he found that he could not deliver on this.