By Ben Agande & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA—Senate President, Senator David Mark, said yesterday that the nation is committed to May 29 handover date, adding that the National Assembly was amending the Constitution to accommodate the timeline requested by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in order to guarantee credible, free and fair elections.
Senator Mark, who stated this while declaring open a one-day public hearing on the alteration of the Constitution, assured Nigerians that the National Assembly has no ulterior motive in amending the Constitution.
Also speaking, yesterday, President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Joseph Bodurin Daudu (SAN), warned that shifting of handover date from May 29 may endanger Nigeria’s democracy.
Senator Mark said: “Whatever we do, I believe that on May 29 we stand. It is not a day that we are going to change. We are all working towards making sure that whatever can be done should be done within that time limit. That in my candid opinion is the timeline that is sacrosanct; we cannot get out of it. We must make sure that we conduct an election before that time.
“We have no ulterior motive whatsoever, because there is general public perception and insinuation that National Assembly members have ulterior motives in the constitutional amendment. We do not have any.
“What we are doing is precisely dictated by the public mood and by the INEC, who is directly responsible and directly concerned with the forth-coming elections.
“Our primary objective and aim is to have a credible election in 2011. Whatever we can do to ensure that, we will do it because that is in the best interest of this country; is in the best interest of our democracy. We are doing this because democracy has to survive in this country and that this country should, like all other advanced democracies, continue and endeavour to do anything possible to ensure that our elections are free and fair and credible in the eyes of the international community in addition to making sure that it is free, fair and credible within ourselves.”
Meanwhile, NBA President, Mr. Daudu, lauded the National Assembly for embarking quickly on the amendments stressing that the amendment was in the best interest of the country because conducting elections in January was not tenable.
He said: “I do not think we can go beyond what you have done now. This is because time is far spent.”