Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, on Wednesday, reiterated his preparedness to conduct the forthcoming general elections as scheduled but maintained that only the military can guarantee the sanctity of the dates of the polls.
Jega stated this when he appeared before the Senate to explain the level of his agency?s preparations towards the polls as well as to demonstrate the usage of the card reader before the senators in order to convince them of its effectiveness.
The INEC boss, who was thoroughly grilled by the senators after his presentation for about three hours, specifically said only the military could sufficiently determine the sanctity of the dates of the elections.
He however said any shift in the dates of the election would amount to a breach of the constitution.
He said, ?Senator George Akume asked me to state categorically whether I can guarantee the sanctity of the 28 March and April 11 dates for the general elections. 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.?
Jega nevertheless said, ?I must say that every Nigerian wanted elections to hold within the constitutional time frame.
?We should be fair also to the military. Soldiers are also patriotic Nigerians. Let us give them the benefit of the doubts. 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. It will only have to be unconstitutional. I don?t see how anybody will contemplate any unconstitutional means. For us, we work by the constitution, by the law and as far as we are concerned. 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 consult with the stakeholders and we can not 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 hope and prayer is that in the next six weeks, there will be significant improvement in the security situation for us to be doing elections all over this country in a very secured environment. There are certain questions that we are not really competent to answer. Certain questions should be directed to the military; they can answer it better.?
The INEC boss expressed confidence in the effectiveness of the card readers, stressing that its usage did not contravene any provision either in the Electoral Act or in the constitution of the country.