Friday, May 18, 2012

Jega assures free, fair governorship election in Edo State

Prof. Jega

CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Attahiru Jega yesterday assured that the governorship election in Edo State billed for July 14, 2012 will be free and fair. He gave the assurance in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja.

According to him, the commission has invited the chairmen and secretaries (national and state) of the parties and their candidates for the governorship election to a meeting scheduled for tomorrow in Abuja.

He said: “The principles that have guided the work of this commission are transparency, honesty and creation of a level playing field for all political parties and their candidates. The commission remains committed to these principles.

“Consequently, the commission is deeply concerned about unfolding events in Edo State which are capable of overheating the polity and posing a fundamental threat to the integrity of the impending governorship election and in deed the stability of our democracy.”

“In order to avert further deterioration of the situation, the commission has invited the chairmen and secretaries (national and state) as well as candidates of all the parties contesting the governorship election in Edo State namely, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Labour Party (LP), National Conscience Party (NCP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) to a meeting at the National Headquarters of the Commission on Friday, May 18, 2012 to address the concerns of all stakeholders.

“The commission wishes to reassure political parties, candidates and indeed all Nigerians of its unequivocal commitment to conducting free, fair and credible governorship election in Edo State.”

Stressing that the commission has been receiving petitions on the election, he said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission has scheduled the governorship election in Edo State for July 14, 2012. Since the announcement of the date, political parties have expressed concerns about preparations for the election.

“While such concerns and anxiety are to be expected in the build-up to an election, it is important that matters do not degenerate as to threaten the fair conduct of the polls.

“In the past few weeks, the commission has received petitions containing allegations and counter allegations from various political parties. Some of the accusations are directed at political parties and candidates, while others are directed at the commission’s preparations for the election.”

Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State has kicked against the use of members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as ad-hoc staff by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the conduct of the July 14 governorship election.

It said members of the NYSC were being paid special allowances by the state government and therefore would not be fair in the conduct of the election.

PDP spokesman Senator Roland Owie made the position known at a stakeholders meeting with INEC over the conduct of voter’s registration.

Owie said the corps members have been compromised and that they do not expect them to be fair.

However, political parties present at the meeting failed to agree on whether INEC should continue with the suspended voter’s registration.

The registration, which was supposed to resume yesterday, was put-off following a protest led by Governor Adams Oshiomhole that it was a plot to rig in favour of the PDP.

Director-General of the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, said the ACN would resist any attempt by the INEC to carry out the voter registration without adequate guarantee that the process would not be manipulated.

He said: “We have at our disposal to prove that the process has been corrupted. The voter registration is one of the biggest fraud in the electoral process and the huge amount spent to buy these DDC machines is a colossal waste of fund.”

“We have our doubts about the credibility and transparency of the process if allowed to take place.’’

INEC Head of ICT in Abuja, Chidi Nwafor, who was accused of colluding with the PDP to rig Edo election, said 384 Direct Data Capturing (DDC) machines out of the available 450 DDC machines would be deployed for the updating of voters register.

Chidi said it was impossible to delete anything from INEC database in Abuja, adding that the commission would be transparent, fair and unbiased.

Other political parties present at the meeting called for INE to conduct the voter’s registration in line with the Electoral Act or make use of the old voter’s registration.

National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Edo Delta and Bayelsa, Dr. Ishaemel Igbani, said the head of INEC ICT unit in Benin, Mrs. Umeh has been redeployed over allegations that she attempted to manipulate voters register.

Dr. Igbani who assured the stakeholders that INEC would be transparent in the discharge of its responsibilities said corps members would be used as ad-hoc staff.

He explained that the use of corps members was a collective decision of all Nigerians.

Another meeting was scheduled to take place in Abuja on Friday.

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