- Category: April 2011 Polls
- Published on Friday, 01 April 2011 09:15
- Written by Admin
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Also speaking on the matter speaking on this issue yesterday, former Botswanan President Dr. Festus Mogae welcomed it, saying it will enhance transparency, but said the concerns of security agencies also valid. However, the ruling PDP’s acting national chairman condemned INEC’s stance, saying it could cause security problems at the polling stations.
Speaking when he received the Commonwealth election observer delegation led by Mr. Mogae in his office, Prof. Jega disagreed with the position of the police and other security agencies that voters must leave the polling stations after casting their ballots.
Mogae had told Jega that some stakeholders have raised concerns over possibility of violence if a large number of voters are kept at the polling stations for long hours for accreditation, voting and to also wait until votes are counted. He also asked Jega to make clarifications on the issue of the distance within which voters are to stay away from the balloting area. Mogae said, “There is the issue raised on how far should the voters stay away from the polling stations.
The police said 300 meters, while you said 30 meters are enough.” The INEC chairman replied, “The system of accreditation that we have adopted was used in 1993 and the result of that election is accepted as the most credible in our history, but it was unfortunately annulled by the military. We also used it recently for the re-run governorship election in Delta State and it was also successful. From our experience there is nothing that has shown that the procedure of accreditation will fail.”
On the issue of voters waiting behind to protect their votes, Jega said the police are relying on a provision of the Electoral Act which prohibits activities such as wearing of party attires, campaigns and loitering within 300 meters of the polling stations.
He said, “That is what the police is basing its own decision on but I believe that a voter that has been accredited to vote cannot be said to be loitering. Any voter that has cast his vote and is ready to wait patiently until the votes are counted and that remains calm and law abiding, I believe should be allowed to wait. That is why we say that 30 meters away is enough.”
He said the security agencies are apprehensive as a result of the spate of pre-election violence in some parts of the country. He said, “They probably know more than we do because it is the issue of security and it is their role. I think the final say on this matter, we will leave it to the security agencies to determine.”
The chairman however told the delegation that the people are committed to credible elections this time around, saying “Our experience shows that if there is transparency, which is what we want to bring into the system, the people will wait and get the result, accept it and go away.”
On the issue of military patrols, the INEC chairman said soldiers are to carry out their operations discretely unless where direct intervention becomes necessary. He said, “Even the policemen that will be at the polling stations will not carry arms. Most of the patrols would be by armed mobile police, sometimes assisted by the military.”
He said the security agencies will be on hand to deal with any security situation during the election and that any voter waiting behind for votes to be counted but becomes unruly would be removed from the polling station by the police.
Mogae expressed optimism that INEC under professor Jega is capable of conducting credible elections in the country, saying the resolve has been demonstrated in its preparation for the polls. He said the Commonwealth has deployed observers to seven locations in the country and is in constant interaction with stakeholders to ensure that the polls are credible and peaceful.
Daily Trust however gathered that top security officials in the country have raised concern on the security implications of keeping hundreds of voters within polling stations for hours, which they said could lead to conflicts. The security heads are said to be insisting on reversal of the procedure so that voters can get accredited and vote immediately, and then leave the polling stations.
Meanwhile, President Mogae told Daily Trust yesterday that the idea of voters staying back at the polling units after casting their votes so as to observe the counting process is good in itself because it would strengthen the transparency of the electoral process.
He however said the concerns raised by the security agencies over this was also justified, given that any little provocation could spark violence among the mass of people at the polling stations. He said there is a wave of excitement and confidence among the people ahead of the polls, but added that there is apprehension over the potentials of violence.
“There has been talk of defending the mandate; people saying they are going to vote and they are going to stay there to ensure that their votes count, which is good on one hand. On the other hand there are usual tensions of competition which also then gives rise to some apprehension of possibilities of violence given the apparent intense determination on the part of almost everybody to ensure that their votes count and apparent determination to try to do it even physically—sit there at the polling station to ensure that their votes count,” he said.
“On one hand, INEC has been very transparent and is anxious to assure everybody…that they are willing to be transparent…. And therefore if you say I want to be looking at what you are doing, they say ‘oh, by all means, come and watch what we are doing.’ Which is good. It’s reassuring.
“On the other hand, we as observers cannot help but share some of the trepidation, some of the nervousness of the law enforcement agencies that in a tense situation, if people are crowding around the whole table there could be a disturbance,” he said.
Mogae also said they were not comfortable with the procedure of conducting accreditation first before voting starts, which is likely to create chaos at the polling stations and also inadvertently deny voting chance for people who could not stand the long wait for one reason or the other.
The Commonwealth mission will be in Nigeria till April 15 to observe tomorrow’s National Assembly elections and the presidential poll on April 9. Mogae said his team is likely to make interim pronouncement after each of the elections and would also issue a report stating its findings and recommendations at the end of the two elections.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Acting National Chairman Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed has explained the reasons why the party has picked holes in the advice given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that voters may wait behind after accreditation or voting exercise.
But speaking at the PDP National Secretariat, PDP’s acting national chairman Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed said the voters-can-stay-behind stance of INEC is a recipe for chaos and an unfair action against the eligible voters who have other daily activities to do. The suggestion is likely to cause low turn-out, he said.
Asked if PDP is not be comfortable with the plan for people to remain behind after voting, Mohammed said, “I think this is a case of misrepresentation that has been going on. People have made up their mind that election is going to be rigged by PDP simply because they know they cannot win. We have nothing against people staying at the polling station to defend their votes. What we say is don’t make it mandatory and don’t create a system where it is essential for people to stay at the polling station. If you bring supporters who are reasonable and responsible people and these hoodlums are still there to provoke people, the way we see them breaking people’s cars, they will start insulting them. No matter how patient you are for four hours you are staying in one place and people are insulting you and shouting slogans, there may be fighting in some places where people are not restrained.”
Responding the suggestions that the presidential election may go into a run-off, Mohammed said CPC’s presidential candidate cannot win because he does not have national spread. He said President Goodluck Jonathan will get the majority of votes cast and will get the required 25 per cent in two-thirds of the states and FCT on the first ballot.
Apparently reacting to a statement by CPC chieftain Buba Galadima, Mohammed said he could not see where PDP’s competitors got the idea that they can win election or there will be a second ballot. “They are only preparing ground for dissent,” he said.
He also said, “We went to a meeting with the police and I read in the papers that one Buba Galadima of CPC said they will not recognize any winner other than Buhari and even if Buhari gets less than 80 per cent, they know that the election is rigged. I was surprised because anybody who knows this country and who knows the spread of the candidates, unless you have your head in a bag, will know that there is no way Buhari can win this election because Buhari’s stronghold is in a few states even in the North. He doesn’t have national spread. So where are the votes coming from to say that he will get 80 per cent?
“And for a politician to say that he doesn’t recognize any winner other than Buhari, that means they have a plan, if anybody emerges as winner, to perpetrate violence and create stalemate. That is not going to happen. That is why we complained to the security agents and to INEC to be mindful of utterances of politicians which is indicative of what they are planning.
“The opposition has not gone round even in the zone. Buhari, Shekarau and Nuhu are still struggling to go round the zone. We have gone round every state. They don’t have the spread. They are not prepared. They have not gone to meet the people.” (Daily Trust)