By Nuel Suji, Abuja.
The Senate has summoned the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, to appear before it on Wednesday to explain the circumstances that led to the postponement of the 2015 general elections.
The Commission had last week announced the postponement the federal elections and state elections from February 14th and 28th 2015 to March 28 and April 11th, 2015 respectively.
The Senate’s resolution followed a motion moved by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba ( PDP) Cross River Central).
Ndoma Egba had in the motion, submitted that the Senate as the parliament of the people needs to summon Jega to explain to it directly about circumstances that led to the postponement of the general elections earlier scheduled to hold this month.
He added that even the issue of card reader being packaged for the rescheduled elections by INEC may amount to contravention of section 52 of the 2010 electoral act prohibiting electronic voting system in Nigeria for now.
A submission seconded by the Minority Leader, George Akume ( APC Benue North West)who however suggested that the Service Chiefs should also be summoned along with Jega since the major reason given by Jega was that the security chiefs said they were not ready to provide needed security for the now postponed elections.
But the Senate based on argument advanced by the Senate President that they should hear from Jega first, did not concur to Akume’s suggestion which made it to pass resolution that Jega should appear before it today by 11:am.
However immediately after the passing of the resolution by the Senate, Akume led many of the APC Senators to a press briefing where they vehemently kicked against summoning of Jega alone without the Service Chiefs.
Akume at the press briefing condemned the way the election postponement came about and in particular, the shifting of reasons behind it at different times by state actors having sympathy for PDP.
He said the first reason given was the alleged inadequate PVC distribution by INEC made in far away London by the National Security Adviser ( NSA), Sambo Dasuki, before the alleged letter written by the security chiefs a week to the election that security agencies in the country will not be available to provide the needed security for the earlier scheduled elections.
He added that a new reason for further postponement may be the card reader issue raised by the Senate Leader in his motion for summoning of Jega.
His words: “You will recall that the National Assembly was on break to enable us participate in the elections which were scheduled for February, this year. All of us went to our respective constituencies. Our candidate at the national level, General Buhari and his team were also going round, doing a lot of work.
“We were all convinced and perhaps rightly too, that the right thing was going to be done. We tried to sell our party to the great people of this country and suddenly because there was a huge surge in the acceptability of the APC in the land, people started flying the kite, people from the other divide.
“We note with regret that in far away London, the National Security Adviser alluded to the possible postponement of the elections on the ground that the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs had not been sufficiently distributed to the people. The production of PVCs we know, is the responsibility of INEC. They distribute to the states and the people also come forward to receive these cards. As political parties, we also have the role to play, in ensuring that Nigerians, particularly our supporters have access to the PVCs.
” There was the National Council of State meeting and the issue discussed there was the elections and from records, we know that all the former Heads of State supported the holding of the election as scheduled. Former Chief Justices, those who know the law also supported the holding of the elections.
But INEC latter said the elections could not hold for the flimsy ground that the service chiefs said they could not provide security. Security for what?
” We have over 774 local government areas in this country and serious security breaches in the North East are registered in only 14 local governments and therefore, there was no reasonable ground to shift the elections. We recall that in 1999, there was no election in Bayelsa during the first round of voting, elections were later held. Under normal circumstances, we believe the situation is also normal now, these affected areas should have been isolated for the purpose of holding elections at a later date. But this was not to be.
“We are all learned people, educated people to know that elections have been held in Columbia, which is perpetually at war with itself, elections have been held in Egypt, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Mali, Tunisia and other countries. Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“Yesterday, the reason given was lack of adequate distribution of PVCs, later, it turned to inability to provide security cover and we wonder that the multi-national force that has been assembled to fight Boko Haram is just 7000, including the Nigerian troop and we have a troop level of over 100,000 in this country.
“Why is it not possible to hold elections with adequate security cover for those who are supposed to do their jobs constitutionally? We believe that there is serious manipulation and a deliberate attempt to undermine and to manipulate the democratic institutions and structures.
“There is no country in the world whose leader can sit down and do what we are doing here, to undermine our democracy. That is tantamount to treason. We have nothing like Interim Government in our constitution and of course, there is nothing like coup in our constitution and therefore, we must do the right thing. The president himself has sworn to protect this country and therefore, who he is going wrong, he must be corrected. Elections must be held as rescheduled”.
But the Senate President had earlier in his welcome address to the Senate dismissed the rumour on Interim Government making the rounds by describing it as sordid and strange and alien to the 1999 constitution as amended.
“I am alarmed that the issue of interim national government has been given underserved prominence in our national discourse. This is imprecise, it is sordid and it is strange. Interim national government is alien to the 1999 constitution as amended. Therefore those calling for ING are calling for an exercise in futility. This Senate is committed to the provisions of our constitution which we swore to protect and we will not do anything to sabotage the democratic process”, he said.