BY CHIOMA GABRIEL
LAGOS — SPURRED by the catalogue of criticisms trailing its 2015 elections time table, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday revealed that permanent voters’ cards for 2015 general elections are ready and it would begin the distribution of same for Osun and Ekiti gubernatorial elections from February 25.
The commission explained the reasons the 2015 elections would be staggered and not held in one day as earlier agreed with the political parties. The commission also answered some of the questions that trailed the faulty conduct of elections in the past and the efforts it is making to ensure hitch free elections.
In an interactive section with Editors yesterday in Lagos, the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega revealed that in line with constitutional provisions on conduct of elections, the commission has scheduled February 25 to March 12 to commence distribution of permanent voters cards for Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections and March 12 to 17 for the display of voters register for Osun governorship polls.
Represented by Dr Chris Iyimoga, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Publicity Committee, Jega said permanent voters cards for 2015 general elections are ready.
On why the polls would be staggered, he said holding all the elections in one day as earlier agreed will be too tasking, coupled with the high level of illiteracy among voters.
“ We learnt lessons in the last general elections and this time we hope to take another look at the structure and processes involved. The key thing in any general elections is to have a credible election. We are committed to achieving the best and perfect voters’ register. We have gone through the biometrics since 2011 elections and we want to get it right.
“The nationwide process for distribution of permanent voters’ cards will commence as soon as all is ready and the logistics and every detail is in place. We want the permanent voters’ cards to be swiped by the card reader to determine their authenticity so we would avoid what we passed through in the past¼ and certain parts of the Electoral Act which posed a hinderance in 2011 would be reviewed by the National Assembly by July 3rd this year,” he said.
On the issue of security, the INEC said it was putting everything in place to control snatching of ballot boxes and other forms of electoral violence.
“We are putting everything in place to improve security at polling units and we are involving the police, and the army to work as a team and put intelligence together to curb electoral violence. INEC is worried by the attitude of politicians and their scary utterances. We are worried by lack of internal party democracy and sometimes how the candidates emerge pose problems and that is why INEC is always invited to parties’ primaries to observe the conduct of the primaries.
The commission called for active participation of the electorate saying that “inactive citizenry participation in the preparations is also a problem. When the electorates don’t participate in preparations for elections, it poses a challenge.”
It also canvassed that the electoral umpire should not be burdened with handling electoral offences. “ INEC should not be saddled with the issue of electoral offenders as some of them are criminal cases that should be handled by the police. There should be a body in place to handle these issues. This current INEC has prosecuted over 200 people for electoral offences including rigging. Almost a million people are guilty of double registration nationwide. How do we begin to prosecute all these people?
“ Look at what happened at the Anambra elections. Even observer status cards were forged. There were fake media cards too. These people travelled across five states before they were arrested in Imo. We don’t know what they were coming to do in Anambra. They were arrested and that case is still on.
“ We failed in Anambra but it was not too woeful. Let’s just hope that Ekiti and Osun guber elections would be better. INEC cannot be everywhere. We employed 15,000 people as staff but during elections, we deploy about 500,000 people,” Jega said.