Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nigerian President Jonathan Insists on May 29 Handover

Jonathan insists on May 29 handover

Jul 26, 2010 Share | By Clifford Ndujihe

Politicians who either think the January 2011 polls might be postponed and those calling for the shift of the exercise don’t need to dissipate energy on the issue. Reason: The matter is foreclosed. President Goodluck Jonathan does not want the handover to be later than May 29, 2011, the Vanguard has learnt.

The President’s stance was one of the resolutions reached at the meeting of the Presidency, National Assembly leadership and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, last Wednesday, a source, said.

Consequently, the source disclosed that the government was determined to conduct credible polls in January 2011 and had started putting the machinery in motion to realise the project.

Shedding light at what transpired at the parley, the source said it was not about altering the new amendments to the 1999 Constitution but to remove impediments in the Electoral Act that could hamper the polls.

“The meeting was not aimed at amending the just amended constitution. Rather the intention was to hear first hand from INEC the challenges it faces and how to surmount them and ensure that the January elections were hitch-free and credible. Apart from the Vice President and other key officials of the presidency, there was the Finance Minister to deal with finance issues and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, to deal with legal issues,” the source said.

There have been fears that the commission might be unable to conduct credible elections within five months as stipulated by the new amendment to the 1999 Constitution. Section 178 of the first amendment to the 1999 Constitution provides that presidential and governorship election should be held between 120 to150 days or four to five months to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent. In essence, the INEC must conduct the elections between December 29, 2010 and January 28, 2011.

Besides, there were also fears that the INEC cannot carry out fresh voters’ registration within five months, which leaves it with the option of using the 2003 flawed register.

However, the source said the INEC led by its chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, assured that the commission could conduct fresh voters’ list and credible polls if funds were made available and the sections of the Electoral Act constituting hindrance amended.

Said the source: “The leadership of INEC, led by Jega was present. He stated that elections would be possible in January provided certain time-related provisions of the Electoral Act were adjusted by the National Assembly, and if funds were made available urgently. He said the INEC would need to use selective tendering to beat the contracting hurdles of the Procurement Act. He noted that it is possible to have a new voters’ register and still make the January deadline for elections since a review of the old one would only improve it between 10 and 20 per cent.”

According to source, the President endorsed Jega’s position and “directed the Finance Minister to ensure that INEC’s requirements were met. The leadership of the National Assembly also endorsed the position and pledged to take care of the legislature to ensure hitch-free elections in January. The president is committed to ensuring free, fair and credible elections.”

Jega’s proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, which he has communicated to the National Assembly include:

*Section 10 (5) of the electoral act: to reduce the time for the end of voters’ registration, updating and revision of the voters’ register from 120 days before an election to 60 days. This gives an additional eight weeks, bringing the total period available to compile a new register to 16 weeks.

*Section 11 (4) of the Electoral Act, which he said was ambiguous and created the impression that as soon as the INEC announced the notice of elections, registration of voters must terminate.

No comments: