By Ben Agande & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJAâ€”The Chairman-designate of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday, told the Senate that judging from the assurances he received from the Presidency when he was nominated for the appointment, he did not envisage any interference in the discharge of his duties.
Prof. Jega,Â who was grilled by the Senate for over four hours, stressed that the compilation of a credible voter’s register which, he noted, was vital to the conduct of a credible election; internal re-organisation inÂ INEC and the actual preparations for the 2011 elections were his main challenges.
N50 million can’t sway me, says Jega
The chairman-designate, who was ushered into the Senate chambers by the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji, at 11:16 a.m. told senators that he would not be swayed or bought over by any amount of money.
In an answer to a question as to whether he would faint at the sight of a N50million bribe, Jega said as a vice-chancellor of a federal university, ”I have seen more than N50 million.’
When asked whether he still agree with the recommendations of the Uwais committee of which he was a member, Jega said though he still believed in the report, neither he nor any member of the committee had an illusion that the report would be implemented hundred per cent.
â€œThe fact of the matter is that members of the Uwais committee of which I am privileged to be one, were very patriotic Nigerians. They have studied all the problems and have made appropriate recommendations.
They believe that those recommendations if taken holistically will go a very long way in addressing the problems of elections in this country. I do not think any of us has any illusions.
” Our role was to recommend, but it is unlikely that everything that we recommended will be taken. No matter how strongly you feel about specific recommendations. So, as far as I am concerned, the key issue is whether the constitution is respected, the Electoral Act is complied with and there is due process in this regard. So, if I look at the Electoral Act, the constitution, I think I am satisfied with it.â€
‘Presidency can’t influence me’
On whether he would succumb to pressure from the President if he ever comes under such pressure, Jega stated: ”I think frankly I do not expect that this issue will arise. I am satisfied so far about the assurances I have got from the Presidency about commitment to free and fair election.
And, in any case, my relationship with the Presidency is defined by law and the constitution and God willing, that will guide us to have a seamless relationship in dealing with issues of conflict if indeed, the need arise.”
On credible voter-register
OnÂ the centrality of a credible voter-register to the credibility of the elections, Jega said the commission under his leadership will work towards ensuring that the voter-register represents the true position of registered voters in the country
On the issue of election violence, Prof. Jega said he would collaborate with the police and other security agencies to ensure that appropriate sanctions were brought to bear on perpetrators of violence.
He said: â€œIn terms of the perceived roles of the police and INEC staff in rigging elections, I want to say that what we intend to do and what I will do certainly, if confirmed as chairman of INEC, is to ensure that right from the outset there is dialogue.
”There is interaction and reviews in terms of our relationship with the police and other security agencies and indeed, with all stakeholders and obviously the success of an election is predicated not only on the personality of INEC chairman but the commitment of the other members of the commission. It is a partnership. We must build it as such.
â€œIt is a priority issue for us to engage the leadership of the Police to see how we can prepare the Police to see how we can have a free, fair and credible elections and I believe that as a commission come out with very concrete strategies of engagement of examining the cause problems and ensuring that we adopt measures and strategies in order for past mistakes are not repeated either with the Police or any other group of stakeholders.â€.
On corrupt INEC officials
On the perceived corruption of members ofÂ INEC, the chairman-designate said he and his team would have zero-tolerance for corruption but promised that he would work out a system of compensation and reward for staff of the commission to insulate them from corrupt practices.
He denied media reports that he was a consultant to INEC, pointing out that, â€œI have never been a consultant to INEC. I know that there has been a lot of speculations in the newspapers.
”Well, as an academic, once in a while, IÂ get invited to give paper presentations as a resource person and as somebody who has studied elections in Nigeria, I have been invited three times or so by the then INEC boss mostly before the 2007 elections to present papers.
I have made paper presentation as resource person. I am not a consultant to INEC. Most of the consultancy jobs I have done are through the Bayero University Consultancy Services,â€ he added.