The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Atahiru Jega, in a press conference on Saturday officially announced the postponement of the general elections scheduled to hold this month.
According to Prof. Jega, the major reason for the postponement is to enable security operatives properly strategize on how to secure the lives of those who will be conducting the polls and other Nigerians. This is to prevent a repetition of the violence that escalated after the last general elections. According to Prof Jega, the security operatives have not been able to provide a guarantee of security of the Nigerian people during the and after the polls.
He said “There are critical things that fall outside the control of an electoral management body, some critical issues such as security are not under the control of INEC.”
He stated that contrary to popular opinion, collection of PVC is not enough reason to postpone elections and his commission is prepared to conduct a credible election for the country but they have to listen to intelligence provided by security operatives.
“I’ll like to reiterate here that INEC is an electoral management body and not a security agency. In consideration of the advice by the security agencies, it will be unconscionable to have elections without adequate security.” he said.
He revealed that the focus of security forces on fighting the Boko Haram insurgents will be dividing their attention from providing adequate security during the elections. Since it is not in the jurisdiction of INEC to provide security, they are bound to listen to advice from the experts.
“Consequently, the commission has rescheduled the elections – presidential, senatorial and house of assembly elections have been moved to Mach 28 while governorship and state house of assembly have been rescheduled to April 11.” Jega said.
He pleaded with Nigerians to accept the new dates in good faith and also urged security agencies to keep to their promise of restoring normalcy within six weeks because of the possibility of having an inconclusive election if presidential and governorship elections don’t hold in four north eastern states. While affirming the preparedness of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections for the country, he refuted the claims that 8 million PVC have not been shared. He said 96% of the cards have been sent to states for distribution and as such, the commission will not be blamed for the failure of people to collect their cards.
He reaffirmed Nigerians that his commission will do everything possible to prevent another postponement and also gave assurance of the security of the ballot papers which he said are safely locked in the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Reacting to the development, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and PDP governorship flag bearer in Imo state, Emeka Ihedioha, described the postponement as a welcome development and in the best interest of Nigeria. He said this during a Church service at Transfiguration of Lord Anglican Church (CATOL) here in Owerri.
He said “the postponement will reduce tension in the nation and indeed, enable INEC to provide PVCs to Imo State electorate and other Nigerians, who would have been disenfranchised if th elctions held as earler scheduled.
“The challenges encountered by INEC are local. For instance, I am aware that some LGAs in Imo State, including Owerri North, had stated protests over the issue of PVCs and same apply to other areas in Nigeria.”
Professor Jega, in his press conference said the collection of PVCs will continue.