By Ben Agande
ABUJA—CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday, said the commission would not endorse any election result that was a product of electoral fraud or malpractices.
Jega who spoke while receiving a delegation of the Save Nigeria Group in Abuja, said his commission had put in place mechanisms that would ensure that any staff of the commission that connived with politicians were fished out and punished.
He said: ‘For the first time we will have mechanisms in place to catch them as they commit the offences to have enough evidence to make them face the full wrath of the law. And we believe that if we are able to do that the right example will be set and people will know that nobody can do anything with impunity and get away with it. God willing, we will do our best to ensure that these issues are addressed decisively and squarely.
‘The issue of electoral officers or resident electoral commissioners conniving with state governors or other contestants to sell votes via fraudulent methods will be behind us. We as an organization will never endorse fraudulent elections and if we do not do it as a Commission then we cannot see how anybody can do it and we will allow it. We will stop it and if people still go ahead and do it, we will catch them and they will have to face the law.
“The less we talk about what we are planning to do the better for us under the circumstances but we will continue to be steadfast and we are going to do our best. We will continue to rely on the goodwill and cooperation of all well meaning Nigerians to ensure that in the end we have a free, fair and credible election for our country.”
The INEC boss noted that the time leading to the conduct of the elections is tight, “we are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that this desire of Nigerians, the aspiration of Nigerians comes to reality.”
He added: “If not for the constraint of time, we could have done better. At every opportunity I get I state that fact that we will do our best even within the time constraints and what we will do God willing will be better than what have been done in the past.
“If it were possible for us to have more time, then it would have been possible for us to have a much qualitative outcome than what we can promise for now. But what we see as a fundamental challenge for us is to keep on improving and learning from the mistake of the past and keep on setting the right institutional and organizational frame work for addressing those problems of the past.”
He said the commission will have constant interface with the security forces in order to ensure that they also compliment preparations of the commission in its quest to having a free and fair election.
Jega said that unlike in the past that the commission provided money for election observers, INEC under his leadership would not do so. He added: “We have a process here for central registration of election observers and we’ve already commenced that process and we are also doing our best to ensure that only credible organizations get involved in election observation.
“We are also doing this by assessing the capacity of those who want to be election observers. I think part of the problem of the past is that organizations just come to be observers thinking that they can get money from INEC to be observers and we believe that, the problem has to change. If you are a serious civil society organization and you want to do serious observation you have to have the capacity to raise your own resources to be able to do this.
If INEC pays an organization money to go and do election observation you can almost predict the kind of results or report you will get from them because they will try to give us a report which they think will be favourable to us so that next time we can give them more money to go and do it.”
Bakare on declaration of public holidays
Earlier, leader of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, called on the Federal Government to declare the first few days of the forthcoming registration of voters as public holidays to allow as many Nigerians as possible to register.
Bakare who accused some staff of the commission in some states of “allegedly compiling list of elections monitors from Governor’s offices,” said: “We want you to investigate this and ensure that governors are not producing non-governmental organizations to monitor elections. The result of such a process is predictable if not checked.”
He added: “Many observers of the electoral process in Nigeria have alleged that there is an anomaly where Resident Electoral Commissioners collude with governors to recruit presiding officers for (the) elections. A former governor has openly confirmed this. For a change you must ensure that the presiding officers in all the 120, 000 polling units are free agents and not party stalwarts or people beholden to extraneous interests.”