By Jide Ajani, Soni Daniel, Emmanuel Aziken, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru and Jude Opara
*Over 45million PVCs collected *Non-guarantee of security *Training manual not ready *Presiding Officers yet to be trained
*700,000 ad hoc staff not recruited yet *PVCs still being printed abroad *RECs yet to print Voter Register *Printers for Register still in Abuja
*No full complement of ballot boxes *Fake printing ink sent to states from headquarters rejected *Many states yet to get balance of Card Readers
The presidential and National Assembly elections, earlier slated for Saturday, February 14, 2015, will now hold on Saturday, March 28, 2015.
The governorship and state legislative elections will hold on April 11, 2015.
This shift in dates was announced yesterday by Professor Attahiru Jega, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He made the announcement at a world press conference, invoking the provisions of the following in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended: Section 76(2), Section 116(2), Section 132(2) Section 178(2).
He also quoted Section 25 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The Commission Chairman explained that INEC was prepared but the security challenge and the need not to deploy men and materials when the security agencies had issued an advisory.
Jega made it categorically clear that “we are not being forced by anybody to take this decision. “This is a decision that we had to take by ourselves. They were not pleasant decisions to take but we had to take the decisions. Nobody has forced us; nobody has coerced us. We stand by this decision”.
Interestingly, the Chairman admitted that with the new dates, the Commission stands a better opportunity of fine-tuning some of its processes.
Apart from the security challenges presented to INEC, Sunday Vanguard has been reliably informed that some of its vendors did not meet deadlines.
Consequently, timelines that Jega and the Commission had set could not be met.
In fact, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that whereas “there was unanimity on the part of the commissioners to postpone the elections, the point of divergence of views was the reasons to give to Nigerians”
Sources at the Commission disclosed that the security situation, as presented by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, dampened the morale of the Commissioners.
Indeed, the reason for the long delay by Jega to announce his postponement was the disagreement between Commissioners on what the excuse for the postponement should be.
It was learnt that whereas some Commissioners wanted the election management body to come clean, explain to Nigerians the true reasons for the postponement, especially based on its own serious challenges, some Commissioners simply wanted the security situation to be the sole excuse.
At Jega’s press briefing, he burnished the real reasons the elections had to be postponed.
But he was unfazed by some of the questions regarding his integrity.
He lampooned those calling for his resignation on spurious allegations of orchestrating an agenda to favour one candidate over another.
Although he made it categorically clear that the level of preparedness of INEC this year was far better than what obtained in 2011.
In fact, Jega charged that he “believes that the security agencies will do their best in ensuring that the new dates are sacrosanct”, pleading that there was need to keep hope alive.
Elections shift in national interest – PDP Presidential Campaign
Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation (PDPPCO), last night, concurred with the INEC decision to shift the general elections since “it is in the best interest of deepening democracy and in the national interest”.
Director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement, said INEC ”must be commended for showing the courage to shift the elections after acknowledging the fact that its state of preparedness was not 100 per cent.”
“Since this decision has been taken in the interest of deepening democracy and in national interest, we accept it in good faith and we commend INEC’s courage and obvious commitment to ensuring a free and fair election.”, Fani-Kayode said.
“With this decision, INEC has allayed the fears of many of our citizens that they may not have had the opportunity to vote for the candidates and parties of their choice on Election Day.
“INEC has, by the decision, ensured that no one will be disenfranchised and has helped to guarantee the safety and security of every single one of our citizens during the course of the elections.
“We are constrained to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly condemn the opposition APC for its paranoid delusions and its far-fetched and childish conspiracy theories when it comes to the issue of poll shift.
“By insisting that the elections should be conducted on February 14th the opposition was not only dangerously flirting with chaos but was also putting our country firmly on the path of confrontation, division, injustice, disaster and destruction.
“This is especially so, given the fact that no less than 34 percent of eligible voters have not been able to access their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) up till today- just seven days before the original date of the election. A situation where such a large percentage of our people would have been disenfranchised is unacceptable and the fact that the APC was insensitive to that fact speaks volumes.
“We are aware that INEC is having numerous logistical problems and numerous internal challenges and we believe that the poll shift will afford them the badly-needed time to tackle and resolve those problems and challenges before we arrive at the new dates that have been fixed for the elections.
“We believe that INEC must have drawn a useful guide from available security reports from the North-eastern zone where, despite the very serious challenges that our people are facing there from Boko Haram, we believe that elections must hold. We must insist on this in order to ensure that no parts of the country lose their right to freely, safely and peacefully participate in the coming elections and to vote for the candidates of their choice.
“It is against the backdrop of these developments that we commend INEC for finding the courage to do the right thing. In the same breath, we condemn the opposition APC leaders and members who are set to unleash confusion, mendacity and despondency everywhere and who are blaming everyone except themselves for the situation in which we have found ourselves.
“It is a glaring testimony to their irresponsible and reckless disposition that they continue to insist on having an election on a date that the institution that is constitutionally charged to conduct that election has said that it would be impossible to go ahead under the present circumstances.
“The shift of date is a welcome development. It is solely the decision of INEC. The decision is not ours but we commend them (INEC) for showing courage by owning up to the fact that they are not ready to go ahead on February 14th. The shift will help INEC to organise themselves properly, to put their house in order and to put in place all the necessary arrangements for the polls. The shift will also enable the nation’s security agencies to do what they have to in order to secure the north-eastern zone and ensure that elections can hold there.
“In conclusion, we wish to encourage our supporters and we urge them to remain calm and to be patient. Our party is strong; our candidate is confident; our cause is just; our God is mighty and our victory is assured. No matter what happens and no matter how long it takes, we shall prevail. God bless Nigeria.”
Troops deployed in Abuja
Meanwhile, there was massive movement of troops around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in what some security experts described as a ‘show of strength’ by the armed forces as tempers began to flare over the postponement of elections.
The troops, armed to their teeth, were allegedly coordinated by the Brigade of Guards, which flaunted some of its best arsenals, as the officers and men massed through major routes in the town.
The siren-blaring troops were heralded in a convoy of armoured tanks and trucks into major routes in the capital city, as they checked for possible trouble spots.
As the troops moved round, many residents cowered in fear, wondering whether a war had broken out. Many others ran in different directions as the troops sped off.
But the Nigerian Army came out with a statement, last night, claiming that the troops on the streets of the FCT and environs had nothing to do with the election shift but a mere ‘show of force’ by the soldiers.
According to the Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col Sani Usman, “The presence of troops in Abuja and environs is an exercise displaying ‘national show of force’ to show preparedness for any unforeseen circumstance as the nation prepares for the 2015 election.
Usman said the exercise was a yearly training exercise which should not be mixed up with the ongoing discussions about elections.
INEC responsible for polls postponement – Uranta
In a related development, the Secretary of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), Mr Tony Ipriye Uranta, yesterday, registered his concerns over the desirability of the general elections taking place on February 14 and 28.
In a press statement by Uranta, titled “UNDEDSS Emendations”, the UNDEDSS scribe said, “We take due cognizance of the Advisory Input of the National Council of States that INEC should consult widely, then decide whether the dates remain unchanged, and hope that nobody misconstrues to mean that INEC can be so ordered by ANY body to hold or not hold elections on any date INEC so, independently, chooses!
“We are aware of the fact that general elections have been postponed severally in the past, in Nigeria, without the heavens falling (and that the INEC has shown a nigh-incapacity to optimally put all necessary machinery, men and materiel in place, even at this very late juncture!) but UNDEDSS is of the position that, for the sake of peace and earliest closure, the 2015 elections should hold as already fixed commencing, Feb 14, unless INEC declares itself incapable of conducting free, fair, equitable, secure & credible general elections on the afore-fixed dates.”
Uranta, who is also a member of defunct Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference, maintained that the sharp shortfall in the distribution of PVCs, especially in the three southern zones of Nigeria, was enough reason for INEC to justify a shift in the dates of the elections.