*Don’t expect credible, free, fair election, says AC
By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Chris Ochayi
ABUJAâ€” Eminent persons, including former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, (Rtd), former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, legal icon, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, and Mr. Ayo Opadokun, yesterday insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must compile a new votersâ€™ register if the nation should have credible, free and fair elections next year.
Speaking at the National Colloquium on Electoral Reform organised by the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform, CODER, the eminet Nigerians demanded that the existing votersâ€™ register must be discarded because it was defective, and cannot produce desired election for Nigerians in 2011 general elections.
The participants at the colloquium themed: â€œAgenda for Credible Election: Roadmap for the New INEC Leadership,” agreed collectively that INEC must revisit the Electoral Act before the conduct of the 2011 general elections, as well as improving on the technological appliances in the voters’ registration exercise.
The National Co-ordinator of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, CODER, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, said, because of technological flaws detected in the current register, only a newly compiled digitalized votersâ€™ register would be acceptable in the next election.
He said, â€œthe national consensus by Nigerians for a free, fair and transparent election is hinged on their demands for a much credible process in all facets, before, during and after the elections. The current votersâ€™ register is not credible and therefore cannot produce credible election.
â€œVotersâ€™ register constitutes one of the major planks of the very foundation upon which other activities in the process of election can be reasonably constructed. That is why Nigerians are alarmed that the electoral management body is proposing to use the current votersâ€™ register for the next election, perhaps with some amendments.
â€œCODER wishes to state without any reservation that the current voters register is incurably defective and inaccurate. Therefore because of the technological flaws detected in the current register, only a newly compiled digitalized votersâ€™ register is acceptable.”
Chairman of the occasion and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, (Rtd), said the meeting will provide concrete suggestions that will make the conduct of elections transparent in the country.
Represented by the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, he charged the meeting to examine the critical issues that have constituted obstacles to the emergence of an efficient electoral system in the past, and suggest viable options that can help the new electoral umpire in conducting a credible, free and fair elections.
In his address, legal luminary, Professor Yemi Osibanjo has expressed fears that the recent amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly has created unnecessary crisis, especially the amended Sections 132.
He said the amendment has created crisis in the dateline for the conduct of the elections, as it stipulated that the presidential election to hold 120-150 days to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent.
According to him, â€œwe are faced with a lot of national emergencies in the electoral time frame contained in the amended constitution.”
Former Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State called for holistic re-organisation and urgent commencement of new votersâ€™ registration to enable the next election to be transparent, free and fair.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress, AC, has warned Nigerians not to expect free, fair and credible elections next year, saying there is enough evidence on ground to show that the presidency, the National Assembly and the PDP have reached an unholy synergy to ensure that the votes of Nigerians will not count again next year.
“It is becoming increasingly clear by the day that President Goodluck Jonathan has sold Nigerians and the international community a dummy with his ceaseless promises to organise credible polls next year, as there is nothing on groundâ€” beyond the widely-acclaimed appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega as INEC Chairmanâ€”to suggest that the Jonathan administration can organise credible polls,â€™â€™ the party said in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
It said the recent constitutional amendment, in particular Sections 132 and 187 compelling elections into the offices of the President and Governors not later than January 2011, has made it a fait accompli for INEC to use the existing, discredited votersâ€™ register for next yearâ€™s polls, because it has ensured there will be no time for the compilation of a fresh register.
“The constitutional amendment was deliberately delayed so that it will leave little or no time for INEC to compile a fresh votersâ€™ register. The Presidency may try to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians by saying it was not privy to the timing of the amendment, and that it was carried out by the National Assembly. But Nigerians know that this is all a grand orchestra featuring the Presidency, the National Assembly and the PDP.
“What the conniving trio has achieved now is to box Prof. Jega into a tight corner, which is apparent in his announcement on Tuesday that INEC will soon start displaying the old, discredited votersâ€™ register. We see that announcement as the cry of a man who is becoming increasingly frustrated by those who promised to give him a free hand before his appointment, but have now turned around to tie his hands behind his back.