By Oscarline Onwuemenyi & Salamatu Ismail
ABUJA — CHAIR-MAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday, warned staff of the commission that there would be no tolerance for corruption of any kind in the forthcoming 2011 polls.
He said officers of the electoral body who nursed ambitions to aid and abet corrupt acts in the coming elections would do better to leave the employment of the Commission than be caught in the act.
INEC’s Director of Voter Education, Alhaji Ibrahim Biu, spoke on behalf of Jega, at a Training of Trainers, ToT, Workshop on Voter Registration, organised by the Alliance for Credible Elections, ACE, in conjunction with INEC and Democratic Governance for Development, DGD, of the United Nations Development Programme.
He noted: “From his first day in office, and almost at every opportunity, the INEC Chairman has made it clear that there would no longer be room for corrupt and unpatriotic people in INEC. In fact, he has given them the chance to leave now before the place gets too hot for them, or face the consequences of their corrupt actions.”
Biu noted that under the new dispensation, the Commission was ready to give previous defaulters another opportunity to turn a new leaf, adding, however, that measures had been put in place to ensure that mistakes of the past were not repeated.
He added: “When the chairman was appointed he drew a line with his staff; he warned everyone to change their attitude and follow his approach to deliver a free, fair and credible election to all Nigerians.
Indeed, any staff that goes contrary to this new approach will not be spared. If you go to the office now, you will see Prof. Jega at his desk from 8.00am up till 11.00pm daily trying to put things in order. “I assure you that he has promised to surprise a lot of Nigerians in terms of ensuring that members of staff that bring a bad name to the Commission are stopped in their tracks and punished accordingly.
“I won’t say what surprises there are, but the man is more concerned that his good name should not be dented, and any INEC staff caught in any illegality would be dealt with.”
Biu added, however, that the Commission has resolved to decentralize its voter education exercise and to work with civil society organizations to reach as many Nigerians as possible, especially those living in rural areas, and to effectively mobilize the citizenry and ensure a credible election in 2011.
He added: “We want to ensure that Nigerians come out and register as well as come out and vote; we want to make sure that money politics and electoral violence is discouraged to ensure that the elections are credible, and that the world would realize that the country has come of age in its practice of electoral democracy.”
General Secretary of the Alliance for Credible Elections, Mr. Emma Ezeazu, said the failure of elections in the past was as a result of improper or non_existent voter register, even as he stressed the need for an accurate voter register, if the Commission hopes to conduct credible and free elections come 2011.
Ezeazu said: “An accurate voter register is the foundation for free and fair election in any democracy. It is the benchmark for a credible election and a fundamental document in the preparation and conduct of any elections.
“We need a fresh voter register; the existing voter register cannot be used to conduct any credible elections. Elections conducted in the past were primarily marred by an inchoate or rather non_existent voter register.”
Ezeazu further commended the National Assembly and other stakeholders for their decision to extend the date for the conduct of the 2011 elections, in line with the request by the national electoral body.
He said: “Recently, ACE spear_headed the call for the shift of the date of the elections from January 2011 to April 2011 to enable the election management body and other stakeholders to adequately prepare so as to engender voter confidence in the electoral process.
We are gladdened by the majority consensus on the correctness of our position. However, we urge the political leadership to strive to be proactive and timely on activities that have far_reaching implication for the health of the nation.”