Army top brass, NSA mount pressure on Jega to postpone the election

Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega: under pressure
INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega: under pressure

Ahead of the Council of State meeting on Thursday, top military officers and the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki are said to be piling massive pressure on Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission to announce a postponement of the election scheduled to begin on 14 February.

Sources said today that the Marxist head of Nigeria’s electoral agency has been literally held hostage all day in Abuja by the military top guns, who were bent on extracting a commitment from him to collaborate in the plan to push forward the election.

The presidential and National Assembly election is slated to hold on Saturday 14 February, followed by the governorship polls on 28 February.

The NSA had stirred suspicions and controversy last month when in a speech at Chatham House in London, he called for the suspension of the election, because in his estimation, INEC was not ready with the permanent voters cards needed for the election.

The main Opposition All Progressives Congress read conspiracy theory in the suggestion and said it was meant to give incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, more time to maneouvre to win the election, when various polls were tipping the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, as the favorite.

INEC has consistently said since then that there was no reason to postpone the election and that the PVCs will be ready for the polls. On Monday, INEC announced that it has distributed all the 68 million permanent voters cards for the election and extended collection deadline till 8 February.

As at Monday 45,098,876 voters had collected their PVCs, said Kayode Idowu, chief publicist of the INEC.

On Monday, some protesters, numbering about 100, stormed INEC headquarters to demand postponement of the elections, citing non availability of all the cards for the voters.
But Mr. Idowu said that INEC had taken delivery of all the cards and distributed them to all the states of the federation.

However, there were suspicions anew today, when the INEC chairman suddenly cancelled a scheduled press conference in Abuja today, on the preparations for the election.

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No reason was given, but Idowu later told TheNEWS that the conference was cancelled because of other ‘overriding commitments’.

In an interview with Reuters, a national commissioner of the agency, Amina Bala Zakari gave indication that the election may be delayed if the number of voter I.D. cards the electoral commission (INEC) can distribute by February 8 is too low.

“Let’s see how the PVC (permanent voter card) distribution goes by February 8, then maybe,” Amina Bala Zakari, a commissioner for the Independent Nigerian Electoral Committee said on the sidelines of a news conference, when asked whether or not the date could be changed.

She made it clear that no decision had been taken.

She later clarified her comment, saying INEC was only considering possible extension of the Feb. 8 deadline for the distribution of voter cards, not any potential postponement of the election itself.

“We are continuing with our distribution. We are watching the distribution. We may extend the distribution but nobody talked about extension of an election, a delay in the election,” she said.

INEC extended its deadline for voters to collect their cards to Feb. 8, but only 44 million out of 68.8 million have been distributed so far, with just 10 days to go before the poll.

Foreign powers and Nigerians are closely observing how elections will be held in Africa’s biggest economy and have voiced concerns over violence in the aftermath, as was the case after the 2011 election, when 800 people died.

Nigeria holds a Council of State meeting Thursday in Abuja. It is expected the council, made up of former heads of state, heads of the judiciary, state governors and the president, may suggest a postponement of the election.

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