WADOO!!NEWS: Army not empowered to monitor polls -Jegajega
IN an apparent warning to the military to stay away from the forth-coming general elections, Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday, hinted that the power of the military as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), does not empower it to monitor elections.
The INEC chairman spoke at a town hall meeting in Abuja, organised by Reinvent Media in conjunction with Ford Foundation and Kukah Centre, where he entertained questions on the state of preparedness of the electoral commission ahead of the March 28 and April 11 elections.
Military can’t monitor polls
He specifically said the military can only intervene by mounting security at the polling units, if there was any breakdown of law and order, adding that they can only do that at the invitation of the Inspector-General of Police, whom he noted, would solicit the support for security.
He said: “The Army are not supposed to be visible at any polling unit except there is a breakdown of law and order and they have been invited by the Inspector-General of Police.”
He equally said the Police, which he noted, can handle security during elections, would only be required to stay some 300 metres from polling units during coming elections.
Military must be restricted to its role
He cautioned that the military must be restricted to its role as defined by the Constitution if there is a breakdown of law and order.
He said: “They (military) are there so that if there is a breakdown of law and order which the Police are unable to contain, then they could be rapidly deployed to be able to assist.
“The Army is not supposed to be visible or to be around any polling unit unless there is a breakdown of law and order and they have been invited by the Inspector-General of Police.
“As far as we are concerned, the role of every security agency as it affects the electoral process is to add value but within the constitutionally-defined roles.”
INEC ready for free, fair, credible polls —Jega
On the preparedness of the commission, Jega insisted that INEC was well prepared to conduct free, fair and credible elections in line with international best practices, saying the six weeks extension for the conduct of the polls at the instance of security, had given INEC opportunity to improve tremendously on its preparations.
He said he was satisfied with the improved security situation in the north eastern part of the country, reiterating that only Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the three affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, will be allowed to vote.
I’m not under pressure to resign
Answering questions about his alleged unpleasant roles in the coming elections and calls in some quarters on him to resign, the INEC chairman declared that he was not under pressure to resign from office, just as he hinted that he had no intention of quitting his position.
According to him, it will be “a disservice to do that at this time,” adding that “I have a job to do.
“Nobody has asked me to go on leave. A lot of things being said out there are diversionary. I have a job to do until April 11, 2015.
“We have a job to do and we are determined to do it for the country. We need to move forward, not backwards, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that nobody is disenfranchised.
“I have a job to do and I remain focused to do it. It will be a disservice for me to resign now.
“No reasonable person in my view who is holding this kind of job like the one I am holding will contemplate dropping everything and going on leave before the job is concluded.
“For me, it is not an option and nobody has asked me to go on leave. We remain focused and we have a job to do and we are determined to conduct the best election for this country.
“I am not under pressure to resign. It would be a disservice to the nation for me to say that I will resign when I have no reason to resign.”
On card readers
The INEC boss reiterated the commission’s use of card readers for the elections, saying the equipment will add value to the credibility of the polls.
He said: “We are doing everything humanly possible in addition to other logistical deployment to be able to conduct a hitch-free poll that will be fair, credible, and remarkably better than the 2011 elections conducted by the commission.”
He said the commission had used the period of the postponement to address the myriad of concerns about the card reader, adding that the body has satisfactorily conducted a quality assurance as well as field tests on the workability of the equipment, hence INEC’s determination to deploy it for the polls.
He pointed out that the card reader will only read cards that have been produced and issued by the electoral umpire as well as facilitate easy audit of accreditation information in case there are concerns about fraudulent alterations of results.
Giving an update on the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, collection across the states generally, the INEC chairman disclosed that 68.8 million people registered with the electoral umpire, adding that 67.8 million of the cards produced have already been taken to states for distribution.
He, however, lamented the nationwide collection level of the cards which, according to him, was only 56 million, adding: “There are millions of cards out there that people have not gone out to collect.
700,000 PVCs still being produced
“Of these 68.8 number, about 700,000 cards are still being produced and will be distributed to the states next Saturday.
“If we get to the 28th of this month and people have not come forward to collect them, then you cannot talk of INEC disenfranchising those people.”