By Williams Ekanem for MACTV News
Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carson is to speak on the upcoming Nigerians elections on Tuesday March 29,2011.
Nigeria is on the march again looking for Mr. President. Come April this year, Elections into the various constitutional elective positions which include state house of Assemblies, Representatives, Senate, the states gubernatorial elections and the Presidential election would be held.
The umpire for the elections the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had completed the Voters’ registration Exercise which will usher in the elections which commences on April 2 with elections into state governors, April 9 for the presidency and April 16 for lawmakers at the federal level.
Meanwhile, key contenders in the electioneering campaigns, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change have expressed their support for the decision of the electoral body, INEC to allow voters witness the counting of votes at polling centers.
Reports monitored from Lagos say the ruling Peoples Democratic Party faulted the decision, saying it was not only dangerous, but that it contradicted Section 62 (2) of the amended Electoral Act 2011.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had a week ago told civil society groups in Abuja that voters would be allowed to stay till the end of voting to witness the counting of votes.
Jega explained that under the new system, accreditation of voters would start at 8am and end at 12noon. He added that before voting, the actual number of accredited voters would be determined.
He stated that the result of a polling unit would be annulled, if the number of votes cast exceeded the number of accredited voters.
But last Friday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, said voters would only be allowed to “stay at a reasonable distance from the voting centres.”
“I want to assure all Nigerians that every vote will count. But we will not allow a situation where people will vote, stay around and cause problems,” Ringim said during his meeting with assistant inspectors- general of police and commissioners of police in Abuja.
In the elections conducted since 1999, voters were asked to leave the polling units after casting their votes. Reacting to the development, the CPC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Fashakin, said INEC had the final say on the procedure for the 2011 elections. The party said that it would abide by INEC’s instructions and direct its supporters to act accordingly. voters during the elections.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said INEC’s latest directive was the best under the present circumstance. He argued that with the decision, the electorate would be able to police votes and reduce electoral fraud.
Mohammed said, “This is a welcome decision. Let voters stay and protect their votes. This is the best for the system at the moment. You see, the electorate must know the results and go home with the knowledge of how the result went in their respective polling units.
“This again, too should make the Police be on the alert to protect the people. If everybody is waiting to hear the results of the units where they have voted there will be little room for violence. Since voting will start and end at the same time, I think it will create room for better policing of the peoples votes cast.”
However, the Director of Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Mallam Abba Dabo, accused Jega of pandering to the wish of the CPC. He said, “Jega should tell us what Paragraph 62 (2) of the amended Electoral Act 2011 says. What is the provision of that section? Does it say that voters should wait after casting their votes?”
Quoting the section, Dabo said, “After the declaration of the close of polls, no voter already inside the polling unit shall be permitted to remain in the polling unit unless otherwise authorised under this Act.”
“Clearly, those who vote are supposed to leave the polling unit. Jega is attempting to legalise the slogan of the CPC. That is a very dangerous development .
“The CPC has adopted a slogan. It has been asking people to remain at polling units after voting and even cause some actions to be taken. Even the leader of the party has been saying that people should lynch or kill whoever they think is tampering with votes.
“If Jega decides to ignore section 62 (2) what he is doing in effect is attempting to adopt the slogan of the CPC as that of INEC. It is quite unfortunate. We are interested in following the rules as agreed to by all. These rules as agreed to by all are in the amended electoral act 2011.”
He said that Jega’s position was a recipe for chaos, adding that the PDP was uncomfortable with it.
ACN youths had converged on Abuja on Wednesday to map out strategies to prevent rigging during the general elections which commence on April 2.
At the meeting, the party said it would not tolerate “incidents of massive vote theft, snatching of ballot boxes and falsification and alteration of election results right from the polling units.” The ACN added that it would not allow what happened in 2007 to repeat itself.
The party’s National Youth Leader, Mr. Miriki Ebikibina, explained that the meeting was to strategise ahead of the challenges of the general elections.
Ebikibina said it was part of the preparation and demonstration of the ACN’s readiness for the election.
“We are going to strategise on how to enthrone a strict compliance for free, fair and credible polls at all levels,” he said.
He said the ACN was concerned about the deteriorating political situation ahead of the elections.
“With the April elections just by the corner, it is worrisome and disheartening to note the unacceptable level of political violence, killings and unnecessary intimidation of opposition parties by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, especially candidates and members of the ACN across the country. It is condemnable and speaks volume of a failed government.” Ebikibina said.