The plot to sack the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, is gathering momentum, The PUNCH investigations have revealed.
Jega’s tenure ends on June 30 but his traducers, especially some Peoples Democratic Party members, are already compiling what they described as his ‘sins’ to ensure that he proceeds on terminal leave before the March 28 and April 11 elections.
Findings on Monday revealed that the “sins,” include alleged transfer of some INEC officials considered close to them out of their departments where their input might not be useful in the conduct of the elections.
It was also gathered that the PDP members, who are close to the Presidency, feel that Jega is becoming unapproachable on issues.
A source in the Presidency, who did not want his name in print, said that the reason the INEC boss gave for the postponement of the elections had negatively affected the credibility of the Presidency and the PDP.
He said, “The way Jega spoke at the press briefing where he announced the postponement of the polls, was meant to implicate the PDP and the Presidency.
“This was why everybody, including foreign governments, have been blaming the leadership of the country for the postponement of the elections.
“The summary of Jega’s presentation was that INEC was ready but that the security agencies, whose headships are appointees of the President, frustrated the commission’s desire to hold the elections on February 14 and 28.”
He added that some national leaders of the PDP would meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and members of his electioneering team this week to review the presidential campaign.
The meeting, according to him, will also “discuss the wisdom in sending Jega on terminal leave any moment from now because of his perceived sins.”
He added, “Close friends of the President in the party and the stakeholders will meet to review the campaigns and I can tell you that the issue about Jega matter would certainly be discussed.
“We have received several reports on this matter and I can assure you that it would be looked into and a decision taken.”
Further investigations however showed that before the postponement of the elections, the military had directed its commands nationwide to prepare operational methodology for the exercise.
A reliable military officer told The PUNCH in Abuja that they were surprised to hear Jega blame the poll postponement on the unpreparedness of the military.
He said, “We were astonished to hear that we were not prepared and all that. How many officers do we have in the North-East? How many of our men were deployed for the last governorship election in Osun State? So there are things we have not been told about the elections.”
However, some political parties under the aegis of the Coalition of Progressive Political Parties, have vowed to frustrate any attempt to stop Jega from conducting the elections.
They warned at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, that Jega’s removal would affect the credibility of the elections.
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement, Bashir Ibrahim, who spoke for the group, said that though the INEC chairman played into the hands of the PDP by rescheduling the election dates, “we are going to resist the move to remove him from office.
“The role of the election management board led by Jega in shifting the dates of the election may not be the best, but any move to remove him will be resisted,” Bashir added.
The leader of COP said that if the INEC chairman was removed, it would show that the shift was engineered by the ruling PDP for ulterior motives.
Also on Monday, a coalition of 18 civil society organisations called for the immediate resignation of the service chiefs “for arm-twisting INEC’’ and for abdication of national responsibility.
The CSOs which passed a vote of confidence in Jega, explained that they were calling for the resignation of the service chiefs because their action was “a clear indication of the abyss to which the military had descended to.”
The Chairman of the Transitional Monitoring Group, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, spoke on behalf of the CSOs at a news conference in Abuja.
He said, “The most worrisome reality is that the Nigerian military, which is supposed to be nationalistic and patriotic in outlook, has allowed itself to be led by those they serve for expressly narrow interests.
“To say the least, the military has failed the Nigerian people. It is a betrayal of trust for the military in connivance with the National Security Adviser to have allowed itself to be used to suspend Nigeria’s electoral process.
“The grand conspiracy to arm-twist INEC to shift the 2015 general elections to satisfy narrow political considerations is a clear indication of the abyss to which the military has descended.
“The claim that they will not be able to protect INEC personnel and materials for the polls that were to hold on 14 and 28 February 2015, is a national disgrace and embarrassment.”
Zikirullahi stated that the excuse by the military that it needed “to concentrate on the fight against Boko Haram, is untenable.”
He wondered the kind of magic the Chief of Defence Staff and the NSA wanted to perform to deal with Boko Haram in six weeks that it could not do in six years.
Zikirullahi added that the CDS had in the past fed Nigerians with lies pertaining to the ongoing fight against insurgency and therefore called on all security chiefs and the NSA to bury their heads in shame and resign.
“The Civil Society Coalition hereby calls for their immediate resignation, for abdicating a national responsibility, and attempting to drown the voices of the Nigerian people. The current military high command, if they still have any iota of honour and good conscience, should immediately vacate their positions,” he insisted.
Zikirullahi advised Jega to resist any attempt to push him out of office.
“This coalition respects and understands INEC’s position that it was ready to go ahead with the elections, until the military decided to abdicate its constitutional duty,” he stressed.
Canada expresses concern over poll postponement
Meanwhile, Canada has expressed concern over the postponement of the elections by INEC.
It said that Nigerians must be allowed to exercise their democratic right to choose their representatives through free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
A statement on Monday by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, Deepak Obhrai, urged all institutions of state as well as political parties to uphold democratic values.
The statement read, “Canada is concerned that Nigeria’s presidential, legislative and state elections have been postponed. The people of Nigeria must be allowed to exercise their democratic right to choose their representatives through free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
“All institutions of state as well as political parties and candidates must uphold democratic values. It is particularly important that security agencies provide security for elections in an impartial manner, and that journalists are allowed unfettered access in reporting on the election process.”
NBA urges security forces
The Nigerian Bar Association urged security agencies to prove to Nigerians that the security advisory on which INEC relied on to postpone the general elections was not a smokescreen.
NBA’s President, Augustine Alegeh (SAN), in a statement on Monday, said the security agencies should confirm to Nigerians that the advisory represented the true and correct position of the nation’s security forces in their efforts to rid Nigeria of the Boko Haram insurgency.
He challenged the security forces to deal decisively with Boko Haram to resolve any lingering doubts about the security advisory.
Alegeh said, “Our security agencies must understand the disappointment of several groups who have expressed their reservations on the postponement of the elections as a result of the security advisory.
“The task before our security forces now is to deal decisively with the Boko Haram insurgency to resolve any lingering doubts about the good faith of the security advisory.
“If indeed the Boko Haram menace is routed in the next six weeks all Nigerians will then appreciate and celebrate our security forces.”
Saying that INEC could not have gone ahead with the elections without security support, he advised Jega and his team to utilise the six-week period to resolve the challenges surrounding the issuance of Permanent Voter Cards.
He also said that INEC should request the Federal Government to declare public holidays for two days to enable registered voters yet to collect their PVCs to do so.
Alegeh said, “There are still about 20 million PVCs yet to be collected by voters while some PVCs are still being produced and/or awaiting delivery at this time. INEC should ensure that PVCs are produced for all voters whose names appear in the Voter Register.
“PVCs are central to the success of the 2015 general elections and INEC must apply its best endeavours to ensure that all problems in respect of PVCs are resolved well before March 28, 2015.
“Our entire democratic experience depends on the success of the general elections and INEC must ensure that everything necessary is put in place for a successful poll.’’
Also, the Commonwealth Observer Group which arrived in Nigeria on February 7, urged all the stakeholders to give INEC “the support it needs to deliver these important elections.”
“Soon after our arrival, we were informed of the decision to postpone these elections by six weeks in light of the security situation facing Nigeria. We understand and respect this decision, taken in difficult circumstances,” group’s Chairperson, Bakili Muluzi, said in a statement.
It said it looked forward to the rescheduled elections to enable Nigerians to exercise their democratic right.
The COG encouraged therefore “the relevant authorities to do their utmost to ensure the safety and security of all citizens and deliver the conditions which are conducive for a peaceful and credible poll.”
INEC extends PVC collection by four weeks
INEC has again extended the deadline for the collection of the PVCs to March 8.
The commission’s Secretary, Augusta Ogakwu, in a statement on Monday said, “The collection of the cards will continue for four more weeks until March 8, 2015.
“INEC had on February 7 rescheduled the 2015 elections by six weeks due to security challenges. The commission hopes that this extension will finally avail every registered person yet to collect his or her PVC the opportunity to do so in readiness for the general elections.”