INEC may postpone elections

THE PUNCH Newspaper- John Alechenu

Indication has emerged that the 2011 general poll may be postponed as the Independent National Electoral Commission on Sunday made public its intention to seek for more time to prepare adequately for the exercise.

The decision was reached after a two-day retreat by INEC’s top officials in Calabar, Cross River State.

Going by the timetable released by INEC barely two weeks ago, political parties are to conduct their primaries from September 11 to the October 30, 2010.

The registration of voters is to commence on November 1 and end November 14

The first set of elections are scheduled to begin on January 14, 2011.

The electoral body which also appealed to the National Assembly to expedite action on the enactment of relevant laws for the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunal, however, reiterated its commitment to free and fair elections.

Observing that it could not deliver on its promises alone, INEC in a statement by its Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi Kangama, appealed to Nigerians, especially the National Assembly members for support.

If INEC’s request for time extension is granted, the amended 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act, will have to be tinkered with.

The statement reads in part, “Having extensively and critically deliberated on the internal processes and external dimensions affecting the whole electoral process; and in particular, the upcoming voter registration exercise and the general elections in 2011, the commission observes as follows:

“That the task of conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2011 is a collective task for all Nigerians and not the commission alone.

“Therefore, the commission reiterates its commitment to free and fair conduct of elections and calls on all stakeholders to join in the task of achieving this objective.

“That there is the need to severely punish electoral offenders to serve as deterrent to others. Therefore, INEC calls on the National Assembly to enact a law for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Tribunal.

“Having examined the commission’s detailed action plan for the voter registration and elections, the retreat noted that the timeline for the implementation of this plan is very tight.

“Consequently, the commission shall endeavour to engage all the relevant stakeholders with a view to exploring all legal avenues for extension of time to enable the commission to deliver on the aspirations of Nigerians for a credible voter register and free, fair and credible elections. Should this happen, May 29 2011 inauguration date must remain sacrosanct.”

INEC stressed the need for political parties to “strictly adhere to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and their constitutions in the conduct of their congresses, conventions and primaries.”

It added that it had developed an in-house software which would be rigorously field-tested before the commencement of voter registration.

The commission called on all stakeholders to ensure that incidences of underaged registration and other abnormalities were detected and prevented during the registration and display of the voter register.

The statement thanked Nigerians “for their expressions of goodwill, support and cooperation, which has inspired it to continue to give its best to the success of the upcoming voter registration and elections.”

Saturday Punch had in its September 18 edition exclusively reported that secret discussions had commenced between INEC and the National Assembly for an extension of time.

The Honourary International Investors Council had last Tuesday raised the alarm over the preparedness of INEC for the 2011 general elections.

At a news conference in Abuja, the council said the timing and the logistics on ground for the elections constituted major impediments to conduct of free, fair and peaceful poll in the country.

The council warned that Nigeria could not afford flawed elections in 2011 as it would not only have adverse effects on the flow of foreign investments to the country, it would impact negatively on Nigeria standing in the international community.

Civil society groups and some political parties had also called for the postponement of the general elections.

INEC chairman had on July 24 said that the commission was not seeking the extension of the poll.


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