Ben Agande and Inalegwu Shaibu.
ABUJA-THE Senate Tuesday reacted angrily to comments by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, that the delay in passage of the second amendment to the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act by the National Assembly is frustrating the work of the
Commission, as it summoned the INEC boss to appear before a committee of the senate to explain his comments.
While receiving a delegation of the European Union at the INEC headquarters on Monday, Professor Jega warned that “We are getting conflicting signals and if there are any delays in the National Assembly, it will affect us. The faster they are able to complete the amendment process, the better for us.
If we have to get extension around November or December, then we will be back to square one. We do not want any extension that would affect the May 29th handover date” he said.
But in a point of privilege raised by Senate Chief Whip, Senator Kanti Bello, Tuesday , he accused the head of the electoral body of blackmailing the national assembly to cover his failings.
According to him, “What Jega said and reported by the dailies amounted to blackmail and something has to be done about it. When it came to the issue of money, the National Assembly responded. We cut short our recess to handle the budget. So for him to turn to blame us now is rather unfortunate.”
Senator George Sekibo in his contribution described Jega’s remarks as a conspiracy against the National Assembly and expressed fears on the ability of INEC to conduct free and credible polls in 2011.
“I foresee a situation where people fail in their duty or job and blame it on National Assembly” he warned.
In his ruling, the president of the senate, Senator David Mark said the statement credited to the INEC chairman is a very serious allegation that must
not be taken lightly.
“This is a very serious allegation even though I have not read the report. We have done everything humanly possible to assist INEC. We cut short our recess to approve the budget sent to us; when the leadership met, the figures presented was different and in excess and yet we approved it because we don’t want to be
seen as sabotaging the process.
“If it is true he made the statement, Jega owes us an explanation. We must ask him to clarify his statement because for him to label us as saboteurs is totally uncalled for and we don’t deserve it. If INEC fails, it should not hold anybody responsible because this is a very serious allegation and it should not be taken
lightly” he said.