The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, has said he cannot guarantee if elections will hold in March or not, stating that major part of it still has to do with the issue of security, which only the Military can clarify. Jega appeared before the Senate yesterday and when asked by the Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, to give a clear assurance about the dates of the elections, Jega said;
“I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I have said consistently that there are things under the control of electoral commission and there are things that are not under the control of electoral commission. For things that are under our control, I can give definite and categorical assurances. On what is not under our control, it is futile, it is fruitless and useless to give a definite guarantee on them. I think that question should be directed appropriately. The questions of security, I will leave it, I don’t think I am competent to answer it sufficiently.”
When asked what his response would be if the security agencies requested a further delay, Jega said doing so would be illegal.
“Every Nigerian knows we want elections to hold… within a constitutional time frame. The security agencies are (made up of) patriotic Nigerians. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. We should be fair also to the military. Soldiers are also patriotic Nigerians. I don’t see how anybody will contemplate any extension beyond these six weeks. There is no constitutional grounds upon which you can do that. For us, we work by the constitution, by the law. That is what is guiding us and we should all put the interest of the nation at heart. The human factor is always significant, it is always important but we believe that working together with security and other stakeholders, we should be able to prevent negative human intervention that can create problems.
“I kept saying consistently that INEC is not a security organisation. We are an election management body; so we rely a lot on security to be able to ensure that things are done well and that there is no disruption of the electoral process.
“We have been working very closely with the inter agencies consultative committee on election security and that is why for us, if the service chiefs say that we can’t guarantee security, give us more time, what is the alternative security arrangements ?
“If we consulted with the stakeholders and we cannot find an answer, what happens? We are going to use close to 700, 000 ad hoc staff. We can’t send people to the field in that kind of a situation.
“Our prayer is that in the next six weeks, there will be significant improvement in the security situation for us to hold the elections all over this country in a very secure environment.
“There are certain questions that we are not really competent to answer. Certain questions should be directed to the military; they can answer them better.”