Sunday, April 03, 2011

Nigeria News Bulletin: National Elections Delayed for Two Days

Jonathan summons security meeting

News Apr 3, 2011
Nigeria Vanguard

President Goodluck Jonathan, Saturday, cut short his two days visit to his state, Bayelsa, to preside over an emergency security meeting to discuss issues relating to the National Assembly polls now postponed till tomorrow.

An insider at the Presidential Villa said the security meeting which kicked-off around 9:00 p.m. may have dragged on till late in the night, as Jonathan, who arrived Abuja at about 4:00 p.m., was worried that something must be done fast to tackle the challenges that gave rise to the shifted polls initially billed for yesterday.

The source disclosed that Mr. President was very sad because he believes that his integrity and honour are at stake if he fails to conduct credible polls in his time as the Nigeria leader.

President Jonathan and Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim at the Presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport, Abuja after the botched election.

The security meeting was said to have been attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Gen Owoye Azazi, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, Mr Hafizu Ringim, as well as the INEC boss, Professor Attahiru Jega.

INEC to meet with parties today

News Apr 3, 2011
Nigeria Vanguard

Following the concerns raised by the opposition parties that they were not ready for the National Assembly polls postponed to Monday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will meet with the parties today.

Separately, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) had urged the commission to move the polls to Saturday, April 9, to enable them mobilise funds to pay agents and meet other logistics.

Speaking on the issue, Mr. Kayode Idowu, chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, said, “If you listened to the chairman’s speech, he said INEC will meet with stakeholders and the political parties to seek their understanding. So, they are to meet before the elections on Monday.”

Asked if there would be a public holiday on Monday, he said: “INEC does not declare public holidays. It is the government.”

Confusion in Lagos, Election May Not Hold Monday

By Gboyega Akinsanmi
Nigeria ThisDay
03 Apr 2011

The partial voting which took place in Lagos Saturday has led to uncertainty among the authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission, leading to doubts that the National Assembly poll will take place in the state Monday.

The reason the election to the federal legislature may not take place in Lagos Monday, stems from the fact that where voting took place in the state, the electorate had used up their ballot papers.

As such, for another poll to take place, a fresh batch of ballot papers will have to be reprinted or reissued with new serial numbers.

Unaware of the commission’s directive that voting be suspended, Lagos State Governor, Mr. BabatundeFashola and his wife, Abimbola, were among thousands of Lagosians who exercised their voting rights Saturday.

Also in Kano and Kaduna States, where voter accreditation went on in some polling stations, some voters had cast their votes before the postponement was announced.

But it is Lagos where the most confusion has arisen as thousands of accredited voters were able to vote before realising the election had been postponed.

The thinking is that there might be no public holiday in Lagos if the poll is not held.
Moreover, a directive is still being awaited from the federal government declaring a public holiday in the rest of the country where the election is certain to take place Monday.

The partial voting exercise, has caused consternation in INEC and among political parties that the sensitive materials in the possession of electoral officials could make their way into the wrong hands and undermine all effort to have a free and fair poll.

Another concern is what would become of the votes already cast, as INEC’s chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, who was obviously unaware before he briefed the press yesterday that voting had taken place in some places in Lagos, Kano and Kaduna, was silent on what would become of the ballots.

Former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bolaji Tinubu, was about to cast his vote in Alausa Unit 003 when he received a call, telling him that the electoral commission had directed immediate suspension of the process.

By this development, Lagos State and Kano are perhaps the only states in the country where voting apparently took place Saturday.
THISDAY witnessed the process in some polling units in Alausa, Iponri, Surulere, Oregun, Oshodi, Apapa, Ikeja and Fadeyi areas of Lagos State, where a number of voters in the state were seen on the queue dropping ballot papers into boxes more than one hour after the suspension was announced.

At Alausa Unit 008, P.M. News Senior Correspondent, Mr. Kazeem Ugbodaga was about to cast his vote when he was informed about the postponement.

Ugbodaga immediately left the queue to the chagrin of polling officers and civil defence corps, but his departure did not put an end to the process.

Forty-five minutes after, THISDAY monitored voting in other areas such as Iponri, Surulere, Ojuelegba, Jibowu, Fadeyi and some polling units along Ikorodu Road and Funso Williams Avenue, where voting was going on at about 1.15 pm

When confronted with the INEC directive, one polling officer, who did not want to be named, said she had not received any information or directive from Lagos INEC that the process had been cancelled or postponed.

At a news conference in his Surulere home, Governor Fashola, who voted at exactly 12.20 pm, described the decision to hold the poll on Monday as “rather hasty. I listened to Professor Jega saying people have not voted. I have voted. Therefore, ballot papers are out. I voted at about 12.20 pm at my polling unit.

“So, I think it is also important for INEC to remain calm and focused and get the fullest information about what caused this failure. But I want to also advise Lagos residents that the reason INEC gave is that they do not have the result sheets.

“This means all the places where we have voted, they could not have written the final result.

“But be calm because I know a lot of effort and patience and resources have been committed to it. But we would get it right. We must get it right. So, it is important that we must remain calm. We would be addressing you again.”
Fashola said it would be best if INEC meets with the parties promptly, cautioning that on Monday, students will be writing their WAEC exams.

“We do not want to disrupt their exams again because of the clear failures that have been exhibited here. There are so many possibilities. We must restrain ourselves and remain law-abiding and all the security agencies are implored to continue to remain vigilant and at full alert I think we want to also examine in more detail the root causes of this.

“Clearly, there is a system failure here. The level of preparedness of this election has been called into question now. One wants to also say it is too hasty for INEC to suggest that the elections would hold on Monday. If they could not get it right for this long, why would they be rushing into Monday?” Fashola asked.

Disturbed by the directive, Tinubu could not contain his anger and disappointment in the leadership of the electoral commission for the postponement of the election.

The former governor asked President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Prof. Attahiru Jega to resign their respective positions for failing to make good their promises to conduct peaceful and credible elections.

Tinubu said the federal government “has failed. The cancellation is a deliberate attempt to truncate the Action Congress of Nigeria in Lagos. See what Jega and his cohorts have done again.

In Kano, the All Nigerian Peoples Party presidential candidate and governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau faulted the postponement of the National Assembly poll, saying “it’s a great shock.”

Shekarau explained that almost 80 percent of the local government areas of the state received the elections material, and expressed worry over the safety of the ballots papers which are now available with INEC staff.

Governor Shekarau told reporters at Government House that even before the postponement of the election, he had been monitoring the situation in the estate, and “I was reliably told that there were no problems with distribution and accreditation of eligible voters.”

Shekarau expressed concern over the safety of the ballots boxes and other sensitive material which are in the possession of polling clerks, and appealed to the INEC chairman to ensure safety of all the ballot boxes and sensitive material for the polls.

“Here in Kano at some polling units, people had cast their votes, and now the cast votes are with polling clerks. My worry is over what the position of the votes cast is,” he said.

As N' Assembly Poll is Rescheduled for Monday, Concern Mounts over Presidential Election

By Chinedu Eze
03 Apr 2011

As the postponement of the National Assembly poll to Monday is beginning to sink in, investigations have revealed that the logistics nightmare the Independent National Electoral Commission has grappled with to make electoral materials available nationwide for the federal legislative poll, is just the tip of the iceberg.

The commission, THISDAY checks revealed, could encounter even bigger difficulties ensuring that the ballot papers and materials for the presidential election are ready and distributed all over the country before the presidential poll next Saturday.

The irony is that whilst INEC officials are losing sleep over the non-availability of materials for the presidential poll, the commission has already printed and warehoused ballot papers for the presidential run-off poll perhaps in anticipation that no clear victor emerges from the presidential election on Saturday.

Sources close to the commission confirmed that the ballot papers for the presidential election are yet to be air freighted to Nigeria, even though electoral materials for the run-off are available and on standby.

It is not even clear if they have been printed, as the contract for the printing of presidential ballot papers were only reawarded last week.

According to the sources, the original printers contracted by INEC to handle the contract for the production and supply of the ballot papers had actually forewarned INEC that the presidential ballot papers would not be ready for the April 9 presidential election.

“We were surprised when the commission received a report from the company that the presidential ballot papers would not be ready till April 12, and, as you know, the presidential election is slated for April 9.

“INEC had to cancel the contract and reawarded it last Friday, April 1, to another company that has promised delivery of the presidential ballot papers between April 4 and 7,” the source said.

But even the new dates for delivery given by the new contractor is no guarantee that INEC will get its material on time before the poll, explained the source.

“If the commission encounters the same problems getting cargo planes to deliver them on time, we would face the same scenario as the National Assembly poll, and even if the material gets in on time, there’s still no guarantee that INEC can distribute to all the nooks and crannies for the presidential poll,” explained one source conversant with the contracts.

According to THISDAY checks, the new company, V.I. Solutions, belongs to a Nigerian, Alhaji Yahaya Musa.

V.I. Solution is one of 11 companies that were awarded the contract to print the ballot papers and the result sheets for the National Assembly poll.

Also, investigation into the production of electoral material for the National Assembly poll has shown that the result sheets, which were not available in most of the polling units nationwide, and the non-availability of which was one of the main reasons for the postponement of the election, were printed in Germany by a company know as Sanfrano which has another Nigerian backer, Alhaji Sani Musa.

Like V.I. Solution, Sanfrano is one of 11 companies that were awarded the contract for the printing of ballot papers and the result sheets.

It was gathered that the company air freighted the result sheets into the country in the early hours of Saturday morning in over ten air cargo planes.

In addition to worrying over how to distribute the material, the commission is currently battling how best to secure the custody of the sensitive electoral materials already in the public domain from the botched poll of yesterday.

A senior INEC official that spoke to THISDAY said that the commission is worried sick over the sensitive materials already in the custody of polling officials in some states and the goal by INEC to keep such materials secure has been defeated by the postponement of the election.

The source said: “In our series of meetings with the political parties, they made requests to have samples and serial numberings of the ballot papers but we refused.

“Now our joker is out of the pack and is now in the possession of some politicians.

“It is our fear that in some states where sensitive materials like the result sheets and ballot papers are in the hands of the polling officials, any thing could happen.

“Our biggest problem at the moment is how to retrieve these materials from the polling officials and return them to the warehouses of INEC without making mistakes,” the official said.

According to the official, “The ballot papers’ serial numbers and the result sheets are now public knowledge and your bet is as good as mine, knowing fully well, the Nigerian politician. How are we sure that the ballot papers will not find their way to some private printing companies?”

Further findings reveal that INEC or its contractors may have failed to charter sufficient cargo aircraft to bring in the electoral materials from Johannesburg, South Africa, where they are being printed.

A senior official of one of the ground handling companies made this known yesterday, adding that there is also the possibility that the company printing the materials for INEC may not have completed the job before election started on Saturday or failed to close the aircraft charter deal on time to get sufficient planes that would bring in the materials.

The cargo planes bringing the materials are being handled by the two known aviation handling companies in Nigeria, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited and Nigeria Aviation Handling Company Plc.

According to the spokesman of SAHCOL, Basil Agboarumi, the company had handled five flights since Thursday when INEC started bringing the materials to the country, while NAHCO said that it has handled only nine tones of the cargo.

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