The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, Monday said except the current state of emergency rule resulting from insurgency in three North-east states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno ends before 2015, elections would not be conducted in the affected states.
Jega, who made this disclosure yesterday at a one-day stakeholders’ public hearing organised by Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said if elections were conducted under emergency rule, it is apparent that such elections would not be free and fair.
The INEC chairman further explained that if the commission insists on conducting elections in such insecure places, not only would the elections not be free and fair, they will also be disrupted.
“You can’t conduct elections under emergency rule because of generalised insecurity and if there’s insecurity, how can you conduct elections?
“If you hold elections, the situation is that you can’t have free and fair elections under emergency rule. Otherwise, you’ll be going through the rituals – either the elections will be disrupted or people will not come out to vote. Ideally, elections can’t hold under emergency rule,” Jega said.
But the INEC chairman failed to state what the impact of the non-conduct of elections in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, could have on the outcome of the presidential election.
When emergency rule was imposed on the three states in May, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had raised the alarm that it could be used as an avenue by President Goodluck Jonathan not to hold elections in the affected states, which are all controlled by APC and could affect the party’s fortunes during the general election.
Jega also told the gathering that although specific dates had not been fixed for 2015 general election, what was certain is that the poll would be conducted between January and February.
“The law permits us to hold the election from January to April but we will prefer to hold it early in either January or most preferably in February,” Jega said.
According to him, the commission wants the election conducted early enough to give room for the conclusion of all litigations arising from election disputes, ahead of swearing-in of the winners.
Jega also said INEC would launch the SMS service alert, which he said would enable registered voters cross check their status on INEC’s voters’ register without physical recourse to the commission.
“By January next year, we will launch an SMS service that you can use to cross check the status of your registration in the voters’ register,” Jega said.
To enjoy the service, the INEC boss explained: “You will type in your name and the last five digits of your PIN number and send to an SMS code that will be made available by INEC, then you will get an automatic message that will tell you whether or not you are properly registered as well as your registration center.”
He said the innovation was part of the commission’s plan to improve on the 2011 general election.
The INEC chairman also disclosed that the commission would not use the addendum of the voters’ register for the 2015 elections, saying INEC was currently reviewing voters’ register and would only use the electronic register for the conduct of all future elections.
Jega, who also disclosed that INEC currently has a total voter population of 73.5 million, added that the election would cost the commission $7.9 per voter, which implies that INEC would require not less than N93 billion to conduct the 2015 general election.
He said the projection represented a reduction of $1 relative to $8.8 that was projected in 2011, representing 10 per cent drop.
He also disclosed that all guidelines and regulations on the electoral process ahead of 2015 general election were being revised with legal experts who have been engaged on how to gazette them.
He also said as part of the commission’s commitment towards achieving free and fair elections in 2015, an election risk management tool is being deployed with the support of foreign agencies which he said would enable the commission to gather information about risk factors associated with the elections with a view to deploying effective measures meant to contain or mitigate them.
He said: “From the foregoing, we are convinced that the prospects of having remarkably much better elections in 2015 are very bright. But we harbour no illusion that we have accounted for all issues that could pose challenges for the elections. In fact, there are still a number of key challenges.”
He listed such challenges ahead of the election to include insecurity, funding, the attitude of the political class, apathy and inactive citizenry, delays in amendment to the legal framework, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units, as well as prosecution of election offenders.
The challenges notwithstanding, Jega said INEC was confident that “the 2015 general election will see Nigeria take its rightful place in the global comity of nations where electoral democracy is being consolidated.”
He regretted the conduct of the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State, describing it as a “fluke” and terrible” experience, but enjoined Nigerians not to use it as a measure to write off the 2015 polls.
“There is no doubt that we have come a long way since 2011. Even though Anambra election was a fluke, we feel confident that it should not be used to think that 2015 election would be bad. It was a terrible thing, but we will do our best to address the challenges,” he promised.
He added: “In Anambra, people tried to make a mountain out of a mole hill. The election wasn’t perfect, yes. But that is not to say that we have not learnt our lessons.”
On complaints that many registered voters were disenfranchised in the election, Jega dismissed the allegation, disclosing that the commission uncovered about 93,000 cases of multiple registration in the state.
He implored the National Assembly to assist the commission by setting up the Electoral Offences Commission.
Also yesterday, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, took a swipe at the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the last Anambra poll, Senator Chris Ngige, saying he needs psychiatric examination.
He upbraided Ngige in reaction to the senator’s allegation that the federal government gave APGA N8 billion to prosecute the election.
He said: “I think Dr. Chris Ngige requires psychiatric examination for the reason of the type of defeat he suffered in the election. He has not been able to come to terms with it.
“He has busied himself trying to justify why he lost. But clearly before the election, I had told him that he had no chance in the election.”