By Okey Ndiribe, Asst. Political Editor
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)  Prof. Attahiru Jega  is optimistic that  today would prove to the whole world that Nigeria can organize free and fair elections.

While recently  reminiscing on measures the commission under his leadership has put in place to ensure that the feat is achieved, he  declared the total readiness  of INEC  to conduct  credible  elections  between today  and April 16.

Prof. Jega  made this declaration last Wednesday  at a meeting he held with editors of major media houses in the country. Throwing more light on INEC’s preparations for the polls he said  the Commission had already  taken delivery of ballot boxes and  papers  and other sensitive electoral  materials that would be used for the  elections.

JEGA

Giving further insight into novel measures that have been put in place by INEC  to ensure that ills of  past elections are avoided, Prof. Jega said  that the Federal Road Safety Commission
(FRSC) would assist  INEC to  track  movement of sensitive electoral materials nation-wide. He also stated  that  ballot papers that to  be used for the polls would  contain security features  which  would prevent  them  from being used in another polling  unit if stolen.

The INEC Chairman further stated that the commission already had a credible voters register which is much better than what was used for the 2007 general elections adding that  even though the register is not perfect,  some persons who were involved  in  multiple registration  have been detected and would soon be prosecuted.

He further said that adequate preparations have been made for delivery of electoral materials on time to ensure that  voting begins on time on election days.  The INEC boss also assured the nation  that cases of late arrival of  electoral materials would be reduced drastically  and  may  only  occur in very remote parts of the country.

According to him: “ Arrangements  have  been made with the Nigerian Air Force and Navy for delivery of electoral materials to different parts of the country.”

Commenting on the thorny issue of a final list of candidates vying for different positions, he  said the Commission had concluded compilation of nominated candidates of different parties for all the elections  adding that INEC faced serious legal challenges in compiling the final list.

A week earlier Prof. Jega  had  stated at a meeting  he held with leaders of political parties at Abuja  that the commission would deploy a minimum of 400,000 adhoc staff  for the polls stressing that three of them would work in a polling unit alongside other field  supervisory personnel .

He also said  that the bulk of the adhoc personnel would be serving members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).  He further  stated that in places where NYSC  adhoc personnel were inadequate, students from Federal Government owned tertiary institutions would be deployed alongside staff of  the federal civil service working in such places.

The  INEC  boss  had  stated that the Commission had worked on changing the attitude of its staff from what it used to be in the past through sensitization programmes and sanctions  where necessary.

The INEC Chairman has also  disclosed  that some of the senior officials of the commission across the states –especially the state  Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and the Electoral Officers (EOs)- would be redeployed.  The INEC Chairman also  said  that the exercise would  cut across  all levels of electoral body.

Responding to the controversy  over  whether or not  the  direct data capture (DDC) machines could be used for the poll, he said this wasn’t possible  because of the  challenges  their use would  pose to the commission. He explained that  that a section of the Electoral Act  prohibits electronic voting.

Said he: “ There is a possibility that somebody could go to court to challenge us if we use DDC machines since there is an aspect of the law which prohibits electronic voting. Use of these machines even for the purpose of accrediting voters could attract such a legal action and we have to avoid anything that could be used by anybody to stall the election”. He  also  dismissed  the insinuation in some quarters that INEC’s voters register was manually compiled stressing that the commission’s register was electronically generated.

Throwing more light on security  arrangements that have been put in place for the poll Prof. Jega said that there would be a list of security agents accredited to cover every polling unit  in the country.

He further explained that apart from the commission so far  acquiring  500 pick-up vans  and 60 boats  for the delivery of electoral materials across the country, another 100 vans were still being expected.
He also said the commission had been assured by the leadership of both the Navy and Airforce that they

were prepared to assist the electoral body for the purpose of delivering electoral materials to any part of the country.

Commenting on the controversy that has trailed the list of candidates vying for various offices published by the commission so far, Prof Jega stated that the electoral body had never  on its own substituted the names of candidates submitted by various political parties adding that what the commission had done  so far was guided by the relevant  laws and guidelines for  party primaries.

Commenting further on measures that have been introduced for  the purpose of  ensuring  the polls are free and fair, Prof. Jega explained that the period of four hours  which was set aside for the purpose of voters accreditation on polling day is to forestall  multiple  voting and other electoral malpractices adding that  voters could stay or go home after exercising their franchise.

The INEC Chairman had also pledged  that the commission would surely investigate and prosecute political parties that were violating the law on the sources of their funding but urged politicians who had evidence of such violations to send them to him.

He further stated that  INEC had also introduced  a code of conduct for  political parties in the country, as a way of regulating and restoring sanity among them.

“ The Code of conduct  would be in place to  serve as a guide to regulate the activities of  political parties before and during the general elections”  he said.

The INEC boss  had earlier said there would be more redeployment of officers of the commission before the elections.  Throwing more light on security  arrangements that have been put in place for the poll, he said that there would be a list of security agents accredited to cover every polling unit  in the country.

He further stated that INEC had established an inter-agency  security consultative committee for the purpose of ensuring  a hitch-free poll in the country adding that this had been extended to all the states of the federation.

In his own presentation at the meeting, INEC’s Director of Operations Mr Okey Ndeche said preparations had been completed for INEC staff to be camped at voting centres,  nation-wide on April 1.  He explained  that the  procedure that would be adopted on polling day would begin  with  a headcount of voters on queue  before actual voting commences.

In his own remarks at the meeting,  INEC’s  Director of Logistics Alhaji Usman Farouk  had said that ballot  boxes  that would be used for the election would be coded according to the voting centres across the nation adding that there would be cubicles for polling stations located in open places.

Investigations by Vanguard also indicated that security at the headquarters of the  Commission  was also recently  beefed up with the deployment of  officers and men of the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Nigeria Police.

It was learnt that that the deployment  of the squad to the  commission’s headquarters  became necessary following increased violence across the country since  INEC offices  could become  targets of political thugs and other  miscreants  who did not want the elections to hold.

Since last week, members  of  the squad  have  been thoroughly screening  all incoming and outgoing vehicles as well as staff and visitors to the commission’s headquarters.

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