INEC Chairman Jega’s Address to Political Parties Leadership Group After September 21 Consultation

No Comments » September 22nd, 2010 posted by // Categories: Elections 2011



http://inecnigeria.org/newsview.php?newsid=515

ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC) AT THE CONSULTATION BETWEEN INEC AND THE NATIONAL LEADERSHIP OF NIGERIAN POLITICAL PARTIES HELD ON TUESDAY, 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2010

PROTOCOL

It gives me immense pleasure to welcome all of us to this second interactive meeting in as many months. You would recall that during our first meeting on 18th August, 2010, I promised that as principal stakeholders in the electoral process, political parties would be regularly consulted by INEC. This meeting is meant to both fulfil that promise and to discuss some issues that are central to the success of the unfolding electoral calendar and the roles of political parties and INEC in it.

Since our last meeting, the Electoral Act 2010 has been signed into law and gazetted, which resolves one of the central impediments to our preparations for both the registration of voters and 2011 elections, as I mentioned at that meeting. On our part, we have released the election timetable and continued at breakneck speed to prepare for voter registration exercise and the elections proper. In the one month since our meeting, in addition to releasing the election timetable, we have set a clear and targeted agenda with a detailed inter-Departmental operational plan that will guide our activities up to the elections in January 2011: we are now on the verge of signing the contracts for procurement of the equipment required for the registration exercise; we have met with and received the buy-in of numerous stakeholders; we are nearing the finalization of an MOU with civil society organizations; we have commenced the recruitment of over 360,000 staff required for the voter registration, and; we have fully developed a new registration software that is completely owned by INEC, which is currently being rigorously tested.

Following the release of the election timetable, the Commission has received repeated inquiries expressing concerns about the ability of political parties to comply with the timelines of the calendar in the context of the new Electoral Act 2010. Principal among the worries is the new format for the nomination of candidates, which is much more decentralized and extended than before, thus requiring a longer timeframe to be actualized. Apart from the political parties, government officials, our development partners, the mass media and the wider public have also wondered about the ability of INEC to deliver a fresh Voters’ Register for the 2011 elections and to conduct the elections proper within the timeframe established by the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010. Surely, INEC is not oblivious of these legitimate concerns, which reflect the collective will of Nigerians and the friends of the country to ensure that we get the next election right.

Yet, these time constraints were not unanticipated by the Commission. You may recall that in my very first Press Conference as Chairman of the Commission, I clearly stated that the two constraints facing the Commission, having decided to conduct a voter registration exercise from scratch, were time and availability of funds. I therefore alerted Nigerians that our ability to deliver a new Voters’ Register, which is the bedrock of free, fair and credible elections, depended largely on meeting certain timelines. Among these were award of contract for the acquisition of the DDC machines early in August, delivery of the first 15,000 units of the machines early in September and training of registration officers by early to middle of September. It has since become clear that we have missed some of these timelines. Fortunately, the problem of finance has now been largely solved, with the supplementary appropriation and agreement with the Federal Ministry of Finance on a schedule of releases of funds, which, I am very happy to note, the Ministry is commendably adhering to.

However, the nagging problem of time endures. It is important to put this constraint of time in perspective, considering the diverse interpretations it has received in the press over the last few weeks. The fact that we have time constraints does not mean that the tasks at hand are impossible to accomplish within the existing timeframe. Instead, what it means is that there is a very limited margin to make modifications to timelines, particularly for critical deliverables. For instance, if for any reason it would take five weeks instead of the estimated four to deliver all the DDC machines needed, that would totally put the registration exercise in jeopardy. And the more we miss the timelines, the more difficult it becomes to adjust. Still, as a Commission, we have repeatedly insisted that we shall work within the existing legal framework as contained in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2010. We have also consistently said that the more time we have, the better the outcome of both the registration of voters and the 2011 elections. These positions are informed by at least two considerations:

1.      It is not the Constitutional responsibility of INEC to establish or change the legal framework, including timelines, for electoral activities. Consequently, to canvass the change in the legal framework or Constitutional provisions on election dates would not only be inappropriate, but could open the Commission to public suspicion, given the well known recent electoral history of Nigeria.

2.      The question of fixing and changing election dates has been one of the major sore points of our electoral experience in Nigeria. The degree of partisanship that usually informs discussions of these issues is legendary. Consequently, we decided as a Commission that direct involvement in such debates could undermine the independence of INEC in the public eyes, and we deliberately chose to keep away from it.

Yet, we fully understand the position within the relevant arms of government that INEC is in the best position to indicate if it needs more time to carry out its Constitutional roles effectively. Certainly, he who wears the shoe should know exactly where it pinches and what is worth doing is, indeed, worth doing well. The foregoing aptly captures the dilemma that the Commission has been grappling with in the past few weeks namely, that while it is true that we require more time, we must consistently act within the law and also insulate the Commission from the partisan politics that is bound to trail any demand for time extension. 

At a Retreat of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of INEC in Calabar from September 16 – 19, 2010, these issues were exhaustively discussed, weighing all the implications for the Commission, the electoral process and the Nigerian people. The Retreat clearly noted that while the Constitution and Electoral Act must remain sacrosanct, there is no point in delivering an electoral process the outcome of which will again be controversial and incredible. At the end, it was concluded that:

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 the time to enable the Commission deliver on the aspirations of Nigerians for credible voters’ register and free, fair and credible elections. Should this happen, May 29 2011 inauguration date must remain sacrosanct.

There is no doubt that political parties constitute the most critical stakeholders in this regard and that is why this meeting is taking place two days after the retreat. I hope that this meeting will closely interrogate the existing situation regarding the election calendar and make recommendations to relevant bodies. I also hope that we can reach a consensus on these issues and avoid divisive positioning. We are sharing with you the detailed work plan of the Commission for the registration of voters and elections, which particularly convinced our Retreat to seek ways of extending the time available to the Commission. Our expectation is that you will profoundly critique the plan, paying necessary attention to its operability within the subsisting timeframe. 

Finally, let me state clearly that the reason the Commission decided to be upfront with the Nigerian people about the Herculean challenges confronting it was an abiding commitment to ensuring their ownership of whatever the Commission is doing. We have always insisted that our actions will be transparent and that we shall always seek the understanding and support of Nigerians in difficult times. Surely, this is one of such times.

I thank you all for coming and wish us all fruitful deliberations. 

Professor Attahiru M. Jega, OFR

Chairman, INEC

Dated 21/09/2010


http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/front-page-news/11412-inec-pdp-57-parties-want-elections-in-april-ndp-disagrees-presidency-banks-on-deal-with-nass-to-amend-electoral-act

INEC, PDP, 57 parties want elections in April •NDP disagrees •Presidency banks on deal with NASS to amend Electoral Act

Written by Taiwo Adisa, Sulaimon Olanrewaju and Christian Okeke Wednesday, 22 September 2010

THERE are strong indications that the 2011 elections will be held in April, if the proposal being pushed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some political parties is accepted.

The national chairman of the INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, on Tuesday, engaged the registered political parties in about a seven-hour consultation on the new push by the commission for a shift in the dates for the 2011 elections, where he disclosed that the commission was 60 per cent behind schedule.

Jega, at the forum attended by about 59 registered political parties, described the push for an extension of date as a product of “rational thinking” and washed the hands of the commission off the allegation that it had a hidden agenda behind the request for a shift in the dates.

Jega, in debunking the allegation, stated that there would never be a hidden agenda in whatever the commission was going to do and boasted that the performance of the electoral umpire at the end of the election would vindicate it.

He disclosed that there was still a shortfall in the fund needed by INEC but noted that the commission was not going to ask for the balance.

INEC had asked for a total sum of N89 billion to enable it to prosecute a credible voter register as well as the 2011 general election but got N87 billion.

Jega maintained that INEC needed time till April to be better prepared to conduct free, fair and credible elections and insisted that the commission must get the extension to April, if it must do the right thing.

He said, “if we are able to get it, then you will be able to upgrade us to A in terms of result we will get. We are saying that we must have good time to do a good job to drastically reduce court cases. If we can get up to April, definitely we will get to do an A job.”

The INEC boss further justified the call for April date and said “it was not a lot of time. That will not make us slow down.”

Earlier in his opening address, Jega had disclosed that INEC was on the verge of signing contracts for the procurement of the equipment required for the registration exercise and nearing the finalisation of a Memorandum of Undestanding (MoU) with civil society organisations and had commenced the recruitment of over 360, 000 staff required for the voter registration.

He said: “It has since become clear that we have missed some of these timelines. Fortunately, the problem of finance has now been largely solved with the supplementary appropriation and agreement with the Federal Ministry of Finance on a schedule of releases of funds, which I am very happy to note, the ministry is commendably adhering to.

“The fact that we have time constraints does not mean that the tasks at hand are impossible to accomplish within the existing time frame. Instead, what it means is that there is a very limited margin to make modifications to timelines, particularly for crucial deliverables. For instance, if for any reason it would take five weeks instead of the estimated four to deliver all the DDC machines needed, that would totally put the registration exercise in jeopardy and the more we miss the timelines, the more difficult it becomes to adjust.”

The parties present at the forum agreed that the staggered elections as provided for in the Electoral Act should be abolished and insisted that elections should be held the same day.

Party chieftains lashed at the INEC chairman for failure to heed to their earlier suggestion that the time for the elections should be shifted and insisting to work with the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.

While the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Okwesilize Nwodo;   secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Alhaji Usman Bugaje and Alhaji Buba Galagima, of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) supported the demand for more time to conduct credible elections, the national chairman of National Democratic Party, Prince Chudy Chukwuani, insisted elections should hold according to the timetable as his party was prepared for the elections.

Meanwhile, to resolve the controversy surrounding the 2010 Electoral Act, the presidency is said to be banking on an agreement it reached with the leadership of the National Assembly in August, on the need to amend the new law.

Sources in the government informed the Nigerian Tribune that the presidency had reached an agreement with the National Assembly to the effect that some aspects of the Act would be reviewed before the 2011 election.

It was gathered that on getting the new law in August, President Goodluck Jonathan immediately raised objections to some aspects of the law which are considered inimical to presidential system of governance.

While the president was disposed to signing the bill into law, he was said to have alerted the leadership of the National Assembly to the need to review the new electoral law in its totality.

A source said the president got the commitment from the leadership of the National Assembly that the law would be revisited after he must have assented to it.

“The president went ahead to assent the bill after assurances from the leadership of the National Assembly that they would revisit the law when they resumed,” a source close to the administration said, adding that the government was now feeling justified with the alarm raised by the INEC.

A source said immediately the controversy erupted, the presidency opened consultations with the National Assembly and reminded them of the previous agreement reached before the bill was signed into law.

Sources in the National Assembly confirmed, on Tuesday, that the lawmakers were putting heads together on the way out of the controversy.

A source said the lawmakers were fishing for ways of avoiding the wrath of Nigerians, who had started heaping the blame of the controversy on them.

Jonathan had given the indication of his dissatisfaction with aspects of the new electoral law in August, when he said “there is no perfect human system, but the system can be improved to make it work better for the good of all.”

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http://inecnigeria.org/newsview.php?newsid=513

FULL TEXT OF COMMUNIQUE OF THE TWO DAY RETREAT OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC) WITH RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONERS HELD IN AMBER HOTEL, TINAPA, CALABAR, CROSS RIVER STATE

PREAMBLE

In furtherance of its objective of ensuring free, fair and credible elections, recognising the need to subject its internal structures, processes and plans to close scrutiny; desirous of carrying along all its personnel in the discharge of the onerous responsibility and conscious of its responsibilities and obligations as an election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the support of International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) organised a two (2) day retreat for National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the Amber Hotel, Tinapa, Calabar between 16th and 18th of September 2010.

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:

1.      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.

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

3.      Having examined the Commission’s detailed Action Plan for the voter registration and elections, the Retreat noted that the time line 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 voters’ register and free, fair and credible elections. Should this happen, May 29 2011 must remain sacrosanct.

4.      Political Parties should strictly adhere to provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and their Constitutions in the conduct of their congresses, conventions and primaries. The Commission shall ensure strict compliance to such provisions.

5.      The Commission has developed an in-house software which will be rigorously field-tested before the commencement of the registration exercise.

6.      The Commission calls upon all Stakeholders to ensure that incidences of underaged registration and other abnormalities are detected and prevented during the registration and display of Voters’ Register.

7.      The Commission expresses its profound appreciation to all Nigerians for their expressions of goodwill, support and cooperation, which has inspired us to continue to give our best to the success of the upcoming Voters’ Registration and Elections.

By Rose Oriaran

Dated 20/09/2010


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