By Emeka Mammah
THE Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, has warned that the problems which bedeviled the 2007 general election may still crop up in 2011 if urgent steps were not taken to redress them.
Iwu said INEC was being placed in a situation where it is unsure of the scope of its functions as well as the legal instruments to be employed in the conduct of the next elections in 2011, saying that this was the trend in the build-up to the last elections.
The INEC Chairman spoke at the opening of a three-day retreat on the Commissionâ€™s operational plan for 2011 general elections, in Kaduna yesterday.
â€œIt is troubling that less than 20 months to the next general elections, the issues of electoral and constitutional reforms are still being debated.
â€œThis in essence means that less than 20 months to the 2011 elections, INEC is being placed in a situation where it is unsure of the scope of its functions as well as the legal instruments to be employed in the conduct of the elections.
â€œWe spoke against this trend in the build-up to the 2007 general elections and we are talking about it again,â€ he said.
According to him, the thinking in INEC is that the commission would have been availed of the constitutional and legal parameters within which it should conduct the 2011 elections, to enable it embark on enlightenment campaigns on the elections.
He said the present situation poses direct danger to the conduct of smooth elections in 2011.
Iwu also spoke against what he described as the â€œworrisome situationâ€ in which election petitions which emanated from the 2007 polls are still pending in tribunals of first jurisdiction apart from those in appellate courts.
â€œIt is not enough to wage war against the electoral commission. People must be honest enough to acknowledge the conditions that make the electoral process and its management tedious in our environment.
â€œLet me once more sound it clear and loud here that any constitutional or electoral reforms that do not adequately address the pitfalls identified in the 2005 by the commission will still the environment of elections in Nigeria greatly impaired.
â€œAny meaningful reforms in our electoral system must address the problems of electoral violence, excessive influence of money in politics, gender inequalities and the unwholesome mindset of the political class which often times is propelled by a killer instinct,â€ he said.