Plot To Shift Elections Thickens


•Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC boss

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

The plot to get the Independent National Electoral Commission shift the presidential election slated for Saturday, 14 February thickened on Wednesday as Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of the electoral commission, cancelled a scheduled press conference.

INEC had indicated that the press conference would be used by Jega to give the nation update about preparations for the polls as well as the number of Nigerians that have received their Permanent Voter’s Cards that will be used to vote in the election.

The Council of State meeting slated for Thursday is to deliberate on whether to go on with the election or shift it to a new date. The meeting is believed to be convened by President Goodluck Jonathan to discuss the 2015 general elections.

The Council whose membership is made up of the President, the Vice-President, all former Presidents or ex-Heads of State, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, all state governors and the Attorney-General of the Federation also has as part of responsibilities advising the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to the INEC.

There have been strident calls for the postponement of the elections especially by those believed to be allies of President Jonathan in the past few days.

The calls for the shift of elections have been anchored on claims that INEC is not ready to conduct free and fair polls, citing as example the poor distribution of PVCs, especially with about 20 million of the cards yet to be distributed.

This is in spite of the assurances by INEC and Jega that all validly registered voters would receive their PVCs before the election.

They also argued that INEC may encounter logistical challenges and operational delays that may mar the elections.

At least, one suit has been filed in court asking for shift in the date of the presidential election by those who claim to have been unable to get their PVCs.

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On Tuesday, 26 registered political parties said at a press conference in Abuja that they would boycott the polls if INEC did not shift the date.

The parties include United Democratic Party, Citizen Peoples Party, Peoples Party of Nigeria, Action Alliance, Peoples Democratic Congress, Labour Party and Unity Party of Nigeria.

Others are  Alliance for Democracy, Democratic Peoples Party, New Nigerian Peoples Party, Peoples Party of Nigeria and Independent Democrat.

“We the concerned leaders of political parties have observed some dangerous trends, which if not checked may negatively and adversely affect our democracy,” the parties said at a press conference in Abuja attended by five presidential candidates – Godson Okoye, Sam Okoye, C.O Allagoe, Tunde Anifowose and Ganiu Galadima.

According to them, the election should be postponed because of the security situation, low  distribution of PVCs and people deserting their places of abode for their villages.

“We are not urging INEC to do anything that is unlawful, illegal or unconstitutional. It is unfortunately becoming clear by the day that most Nigerians appear not to be ready for election but are ready for violence,” Okoye, who spoke on behalf of the parties said while calling on the Federal Government to provide adequate security for Nigerians to go out and collect their PVCs.

Okoye said INEC should shift the date of elections to sometime in March or April.

Chekwas Okorie, the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party described the call for shifting of the polls as “mischievously contrived clamour.” in another press conference he also addressed Tuesday in Abuja.

“The reasons given by the proponents of the postponement that a great number of Nigerians will be disenfranchised having not been given their Permanent Voter’s Cards which will enable them to participate in the election is a contrived reason and to a large extent pedestrian.

“As we speak, over 80 per cent of registered voters have received their PVCs according to latest figures released by INEC and this may increase to 90 per cent or above after the close of distribution of PVCs on February 8 2015, as planned by INEC,” Okorie said.

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