*Sweeping changes underway in INEC
By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, said the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commision, INEC, and many of its current commissioners would not conduct the 2011 elections in the country.
Jonathan, who reaffirmed his strong desire to conduct a credible election that will meet the yearnings and aspiration of most Nigerians and the international community in 2011, spoke in Washington DC, as guest of the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR, moderated by Howard Jeter, former United States, US, Ambassador to Nigeria.
He said: â€œBefore 2011 there will be a number of changes in INEC. A number of people talk about the chairman but it is not the chairman alone. The chairmanâ€™s tenure will expire by June 13. But he is not alone, there are quite a number of the officers, more than two thirds of them.
â€œBasically I am a bit lucky now because most of the commissioners at the national level have completed their tenure or will complete their tenure in a couple of months, so we are going to review them individually and the ones we feel are not good enough to be reappointed, we will not reappoint them.
Jonathan to inject fresh blood in INEC
â€œWe will inject fresh blood and we will make sure that we bring people on board that if their names are mentioned, people in the civil society will be happy that they can conduct free and fair election. Of course that is psychological because as I said it has to do with perception so we are a bit lucky in that respect.â€
The Acting President said that INEC had lost public confidence to conduct free and fair election, adding that it would be difficult for the government to allow the current leadership of the commission to go ahead with the conduct of next yearâ€™s elections.
He said: â€œPeople have the perception that the body cannot do what is right and even when they do what is right people find it very difficult to believe. That is the story of the Nigerian electoral body, the INEC. The feeling is that INEC cannot conduct credible elections in Nigeria.â€
Jonathan stressed that if the nation was to continue to play her leadership roles on the African continent, and direct others on what to do, then â€œwe must be prepared to live above board.â€
The Acting President noted that with the present electoral laws, the country could conduct generally accepted elections that could earn it a score of up to 70 per cent but stressed that the problem of compromise was responsible for the doubts on election results.
During the interactive session, the Acting President called on the United States government and other developed countries to assist Africa in the control of the proliferation of small and light weapons, noting: â€œIt looks like Africa is a dumping ground for small and light weapons by the international community.
â€œDefinitely, this is an area that worries us. The free movement of small arms into Africa is a major problem. It is a huge challenge to us and we believe that the US should help.â€
On the question of public security and safety in Nigeria, Jonathan said the government was doing everything possible to adequately equip the police for effective crime control. He lamented, however, that at the moment the police was ill equipped to tackle the huge challenges of crime in the country.
He said the Federal Government was working on a joint funding agreement with the three tiers of government and the private sector to provide the needed funds for the police.
While reassuring the international community of Nigeriaâ€™s determination to sustain the war on corruption, Jonathan said the government had engaged all stakeholders in the post amnesty programme in ensuring that the tempo was sustained.
He stressed the fact that the government was tackling the problem of power, hinting that he was exploring alternative sources of power to meet the growing needs of the over 140 million Nigerians.
He said: â€œWe will have definite road maps in the power sector. We want to change the focus and that is why we are yet to have minister of power. Once we set the stakes, we will bring a minister on board.â€
The Acting President was emphatic that the government would tackle all problems associated with the human factor in the power sector while those that had to do with infrastructure development would have clear-cut goals and timelines for implementation.
On his foreign policy thrust, Jonathan pledged to consolidate on Nigeriaâ€™s leadership role both at the sub-regional and continental level especially in its campaign for a sustainable democratic culture and pursuance of peace.
Earlier, he said he was confronted â€œwith the greatest test of my political career,â€ while continuing to pray for the recovery of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, adding â€œit is my responsibility to work with Nigerians to improve the pace of development and to do so facing the right direction.â€
He noted that â€œin this responsibility of consolidating and deepening our democracy, we are committed to ensuring that the remaining period of the administration is not a transitional period but one which, we hope, one day will be viewed as a watershed, a transformational time in our young democracy.â€