Nigeria: INEC meets to address readiness for the postponed elections

By Shout-Africa Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna, Nigeria – The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in Nigeria says it has addressed problems which led to the postponement of last Saturday’s Parliamentary election in the country.

Spokesman for the chairman of the commission, Mr. KayodeIdowu, gave the assurance after a meeting between the chairman of the commission, Professor AttahiruJega and resident electoral commissioners.

Mr. Idowu said that Professor Jega, will on Thursday brief journalists on the level of preparation for the elections.

There has been speculations from some quarters that the National Assembly poll slated for Saturday may not hold in some states of the federation.

Mr. KayodeIdowu revealed that the commission is meeting with resident electoral commissioners from various states of the federation to determine where elections will not hold.

The consideration of a likely postponement of elections in some states in the country is to give INEC time to resolve ballot paper errors which were noted at some polling centres across the country.

Logos of some political parties were observed to have been misrepresented by voters during last Saturday’s aborted election, while in some cases, parties were omitted from the ballot paper.

Electoral officers revealed that the possible rescheduling in order to correct the errors will not be widespread but limited to “a few areas” where there is a need to reprint the affected papers.

Mr. Idowu said election will be postponed again in those areas where ballot papers need to be reprinted.

This according to him, will require the printing of new ballot papers, where it is not possible to take care of that before Saturday, — such areas are very few — the chairman has already said that elections in such areas will have to be conducted at a later date.

He quoted the chairman of the commission as saying that by Thursday, places where elections will not be able to take place will be known.

Voting took place in less than two per cent of the polling units in the country. If the amount of ballot papers that were used is such that there would not be enough for fresh elections, the polls will be postponed in such areas. So, obviously, there are some areas where elections will not take place on Saturday, the commission’s spokesman stated.

Mr. Idowu also said the INEC chairman, Professor Jega, had made the point to the political parties during the meeting and the parties were satisfied that issues with ballot papers would have been resolved, while “a few” difficult cases, will be rescheduled.

The spokesman denied that the commission plans to replace the modified open ballot system with secret ballot system which allows voters to vote as they are accredited.

Omissions were reported in states such as Lagos and Ondo but the electoral body insists that the areas affected constitute only a small portion of the 120,000 polling centres nationwide.

Mr. Emmanuel Umenger, INEC’s Director for Public Affairs, also confirmed that the matter was discussed at the meeting and Professor Jega had assured the political parties that the errors would be corrected before next Saturday.

One of the affected parties was the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Voters complained that two party logos were seen printed on some ballot papers. In Lagos Labour Party also protested the omission of its logo on the ballot paper.

Some other parties have also questioned the possibility of procuring sufficient ballot papers to replace the used ones on Saturday and for areas where there were shortages before the elections were aborted.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed confidence that the ProfessorJega’s led INEC would live up to expectation of Nigerians in spite of the development that led to the reschedulling of the 2011 general elections. Dr. Jonathan made this known while fielding questions from newsmen at a photo exhibition mounted in his honour at the Yar’AduarCentre in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. The president who said that Professor Jega had his support, expressed
optimism that Nigeria would get it right this time by conducting credible, free and fair polls.

He said that the postponement of the parliamentry election by INEC last Saturday, demonstrated the electoral body’s and nation’s total committment to conducting credible elections. President Jonathan noted that INEC had the alternative of going ahead with the election without the result sheets and entering the results later at the collation centres, but decided to postpone it.

He appealed to Nigerians not to be deterred over the development, but regard it as a sacrifice to the nation.

The president urged the people to go out en-masse while assuring them that their votes would count.

He commended the photo exhibitor, a former Reuters photographer, for the sacrifice he made going round with him during his nationwide campaign tour.

More than fifty photographs of President Jonathan’s campaign tour were displayed.

Mr. Esiri said the exhibition was for posterity as this happens to be the first time Nigeria would have a president from the Soth-South region of the country.

The Nigerian Army on its part has said that it will join forces with other security agencies to fight any attempt to truncate the nation’s nascent democracy.

The new Director, Army Public Relations , Brigadier General Isiaku Isa, stated this during an interactive session with defence correspondents in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

General Isa pledged that the Nigerian Army would continue to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and perform other duties constitutionally assigned to it.

The army spokesman told journalists that a code of conduct had been given to all soldiers on how to relate with the public particularly with the media during and after the elections.

General Isa assured that the media relations department would be improved upon, adding that henceforth, accredited defence correspondents would be given free access to information on defence.

The Nigerian Army also promised to hold regular meeting with the media to enhance performance of the soldier towards national security.