- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 04:32
- Written by Tribune
- Hits: 1323
THE National Assembly, on Monday agreed to grant the request of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a shift in the date of next year’s general election originally scheduled for January.
This is just as it (National Assembly) told INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, to make the request for time extension the last towards the conduct of the 2011 elections, saying that it is not comfortable with the incessant requests.
The chairman of the Joint committee of the Review of the constitution and the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, told newsmen at the end of the closed door meeting that the committee had agreed to grant the extension of time as requested by the INEC chairman.
The vice chairman of the Constitution Review Committee and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Usman Nafada, also said that any further request apart from the current demand for time extension might lead to crisis.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole, who was at the meeting which included the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Adoke, also supported his deputy, stating that the INEC request would be considered but prayed that the commission would not come up with another request before the 2011 elections.
However, Professor Jega, during his presentation to defend his proposal that the election be shifted from January as provided for in the 2010 Electoral Act, requested that the election be shifted to April ending.
According to Nafada, “Nigerians are waiting anxiously for the outcome of this, we pray that at the end of our deliberation, you will be able to come out with an acceptable procedure and timetable for the conduct of the general election in 2011. The Senate and the House came back to consider the request of INEC and to that end, the National Assembly have done our own bit and again there may be another request from INEC, what we are expected to do as members of the National Assembly is to play our own role and leave the rest for those who are responsible for implementing it.
“Nigerians are waiting, we have been doing our own bit, we have done it once and we have done it for the second time and we are now expected to do it for the third time, we will do it again and pass it to those who are responsible for its implementation to implement.”
Nafada added that, “we pray that this time round, this will be the last request that will come from any quarters regarding these elections because it will not continue this way. If there is any failure, God forbid bad thing, I think it will become a crisis. Therefore for those who are responsible for implementation, I am calling on them, most especially the INEC chairman and his commissioners, it is not an easy job, sometimes you will be looking at it as an easy job, but when you come closer you will discover that it is not the way you are looking at it from that angle, it is something different, therefore you have to pool all the resources available to you to actualise these elections in 2011.”
He, however, assured the INEC chairman that the entire National Assembly would grant them whatever they wanted for this purpose and “like I said, this should be the last time we will be granting anything for that purpose to anybody from the National Assembly. We have done well, we believe Nigerians now have confidence in the National Assembly because of the way and manner we have been handling issues.”
Jega told the legislators that the request he made was in the interest of the nation, because he did not want to be associated with failure, which, he said, was threatening the elections if he was to hold them within the short time available to him and if the January date earlier picked must remain sacrosanct.
He, however, reiterated that should the legislators refuse to accede to his request for more time through the review of the constitution and the Electoral Act, he would make do with the little time at his disposal, but could not give a 100 per cent assurance that everybody would be perfectly pleased with the outcome.
He insisted that his dream for the nation was a flawless election, which, he said, he could only stake his name and reputation on, only if the request for more time was granted by the legislators.
Jega said his request for more time was not an afterthought as many people might want to believe, adding that he knew all along that the commission needed more time but was afraid of requesting for it because of what the people might say.
Towards achieving this, Nafada said the committee would meet with the 36 governors today, to consider the extension request and consider how it would be fast-tracked in conjunction with the 36 speakers of the state houses of assembly.
According to him, “we have asked Professor Jega to come on Wednesday with the details of all his requests, because we might not entertain any request again. After the presentation of all his requests, we would now meet and kick-start the process of amendment again and l believe we would give it a speedy hearing.”
Ekweremadu also disclosed that they would later again meet the speakers of the houses of assembly, saying that they were part of the amendment process.
Meanwhile, Professor Jega, on Monday, has said it would take a whole lot of earthquake to take him out of his job and warned those thinking that he would resign to start thinking something different.
This came as he insisted that he had not come to INEC to make money through contracts, adding that he was not a magician, who could perform any magic in the face of the stringent time frame which INEC faced.
Jega, while addressing a press conference at the commission’s headquarters, in Abuja, said the electoral body was ready to go ahead with preparations for the conduct of the general election in January if the National Assembly failed to grant the request for the date to be extended to April 2011.
He described himself as “a very positive person,” who was optimistic that the federal lawmakers would grant the time shift request but maintained that in case they failed to give a nod to the request, “we may still be lucky to do our job and we may even succeed.”
While reacting to a question that the request for the shift of the elections may affect the handover date and work against the plan to dispose of litigation before the swearing-in of the president, the INEC boss said it would be unfortunate if litigation still lingered after the elected president had been sworn in, but argued that it was better to block loopholes that could lead to lots of litigation.
On the issue of a possible shift of the date for swearing-in, Jega said “May 29 is feasible and it is our judgment as a commission not to create more problems for us”
He said those who were not comfortable with the outcome of the competitive bidding process for the procurement of the direct data capturing machines done by the commission were responsible for creating wrong stories about the process.
He debunked the allegation that the companies that won the bidding had backed out, adding that “we have done a credible international bidding process which is fully in compliance with the Nigerian due process law.”
Jega said the contract for the machines had been awarded but the document was yet to be signed, as the commission and the contractors were reviewing the draft contract agreement.
“I have never been associated with failure. I have never taken a job I know I can’t do. I would not have accepted to be chairman of INEC if I knew I couldn’t do the job and having taken it, I am going to give it my best,” he said.
Jega added that “whatever we do, let us avoid that argument over elongation of tenure. We don’t want any extension that can affect May 29, because we know the problem that it can create.
“We wish to reiterate our belief that the conduct of free, fair and credible elections is a collective charge of all Nigerians, not just INEC.
“While we remain unflinching in the rule and sanctity of law, it is also clear that conducting free, fair and credible elections has become central to securing the future of Nigeria as a nation.
“Given that the constitution and electoral act must remain sacrosanct, there is no point in delivering an electoral process the outcome of which will again be controversial and incredible.
“We request all stakeholders and the Nigerian public to support the relevant organs of government in taking appropriate steps to adjust the existing time frame, so that INEC could give strong guarantees on delivering a flawless voter register, as well as free, fair and credible elections in 2011.”