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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>ADDRESS BY PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA, INEC CHAIRMAN
Monday, 27 September 2010 13:06

ADDRESS BY PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA, INEC CHAIRMAN

Written by PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA
PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA facebook INEC

Appeal to the National Assembly to extend the ElectionTime Table

ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION, PROF. ATTAHIRU JEGA, OFR TO THE MEDIA ON MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2010

In the recent past, the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver a fresh Voter’s Register for the 2011 elections and to conduct the elections proper within the timeframe established by the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 has dominated discussions in official circles, the development community, the mass media and the general public. INEC is not oblivious of the genuine concerns being expressed, yet the Commission also sees these discussions as an indication of the continued public goodwill towards the Commission in this collective task of delivering free, fair and credible elections in 2011 and beyond.

In my maiden Press Conference on July 22, 2010, I stated the two most immediate challenges facing the Commission, having decided that the existing Voter’s Register is inadequate to support the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, and hence the urgent need to compile a fresh one. These challenges were availability of funds and the limited time within which the Commission has to conduct the voter registration exercise and elections. I also emphasized at that conference that the possibility of compiling the new Voter’s Register rests largely on meeting the following timelines:

 

Deliverables Timelines

(i)     Identification of equipment suppliers Early August 2010

 

(ii)   Award of contract Early August 2010

 

(iii)     Delivery of 15,000 units of equipment for training Early September 2010

 

(iv)      Delivery of balance of equipment for registration exercise Mid October 2010

 

(v)        Training Early to  Mid September 2010

 

(vi)       Completion of deployment of equipment to polling units Mid October 2010

 

(vii)       Registration exercise Late Oct. – Early Nov. 2010

 

(viii)       Printing of Voters’ Register for display Early November 2010

 

(ix)        Display of Voters’ Register Mid November 2010

 

(x)   Verification, correction and certification Mid Nov. – Early Dec. 2010

 

It has since become clear that due to a combination of legal, administrative and practical reasons, among them delays in bringing the new electoral legal framework into operation, we have missed some of these timelines by up to one month. Fortunately, the major issue of funding has been settled with the passage of the supplementary appropriation by the National Assembly and the agreement we reached with the Federal Ministry of Finance on a schedule for releasing the funds. I wish to express the appreciation of the Commission to both the Executive and Legislative arms of government for their abiding support and tireless efforts in this regard.

But the challenge of time persists. As a Commission, we have repeatedly insisted that we shall work within the existing legal framework as contained in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2010. We have also consistently said that the more time we have, the better the outcome of both the registration of voters and the 2011 elections. These positions have been informed by at least two considerations, which answer the much-asked question why we had not pushed decisively on the issue of time before now:

First, it is not the Constitutional responsibility of INEC to establish or change the legal framework, including timelines for electoral activities. Consequently, to canvass change in the legal framework or Constitutional provisions on election dates would not only be inappropriate, but could open the Commission to public suspicion, given the well known recent electoral history of Nigeria.

Second, the question of fixing and changing election dates has been one of the major sore points of our electoral experience in Nigeria. The degree of partisanship that usually informs discussions of these issues is legendary. Consequently, we decided as a Commission that direct involvement in such debates could undermine the independence of INEC in the eye of the public.

Yet, we fully understand the position within the relevant arms of government that INEC is in the best position to indicate if it needs more time to carry out its Constitutional roles effectively. Certainly, he who wears the shoe should know exactly where it pinches and what is worth doing is worth doing well.

The foregoing clearly shows the dilemma that the Commission has been grappling with in the past few weeks. At a retreat of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of INEC in Calabar from September 16 – 19, 2010, these issues were exhaustively discussed, weighing all the implications for the Commission, the electoral process and the Nigerian people.  That retreat resolved, among other things, to engage relevant stakeholders in consultations on this critical outstanding issue of constricting time frame. Indeed, this problem is not peculiar to INEC. As you are well aware, our consultation last week with the leadership of all the registered political parties clearly showed that it is a problem these critical players in the process also face.

I have already notified relevant political authorities of this development and we are profoundly encouraged by the patriotic response we are getting not only from political parties, but also from the general public. I must particularly place on record our profound appreciation of the resolve of the Legislature to urgently attend to this issue and, hopefully, find a way out within the ambit of the law. In addition, on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission, I would like to inform the relevant organs of government and the Nigerian public as follows:

1.     We wish to reiterate our belief that the conduct of free, fair and credible elections is the collective charge of all Nigerians, not just INEC.

2.     While we remain unflinching believers 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, still there is no point in delivering an electoral process the outcome of which will again be controversial and incredible.

3.     We appeal to the National Assembly, as it reconvenes from recess, to explore all possible ways within the ambit of the law to extend the time available to INEC to conduct the voter registration exercise and the 2011 elections. We also restate that should this happen, the May 29 inauguration date must remain sacrosanct.

4.     We request all stakeholders and the wider Nigerian public to support the relevant organs of government in taking appropriate steps to adjust the existing timeframe, so that INEC could give strong guarantees on delivering a flawless Voters’ Register as well as free, fair and credible elections in 2011. Specifically, it is no time for the blame game or politicization of this crucial phase of our experience as a nation.

In conclusion, we, as a Commission, remain humbled by the enormous goodwill and understanding extended to us by civil society organizations, government officials, development partners, political parties, professional associations, labour organizations, the mass media and the general public in the past two months, in spite of their genuine concerns about the electoral timelines. We look forward to their continued support in the months ahead.

Thank you.

Professor Attahiru Jega, OFR

 

Chairman of INEC

 

Last modified on Monday, 27 September 2010 13:21

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