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Lawmakers vow to fight poll shift

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Members of the National Assembly on Friday kicked against the call by the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), that the February 14 general elections should be shifted to give the Independent National Electoral Commission time to distribute over 30 million outstanding permanent voter cards.

The lawmakers said the postponement of the elections would lead the country to constitutional crisis.

The House of Representatives spokesperson, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said the House would not back any proposal to shift the polls.

He said, “The call for postponement of the elections is a decoy for third term agenda and as a House of the Nigerian people, we will resist it.

“There is nowhere in the world where 100 per cent of registered voters must vote in an election.

“It will be a breach of the constitution to postpone the polls by whatever guise. This is a ploy and we know where it is coming from.”

Deputy House Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, also said postponing the elections would not serve the interest of the country.

Ogor said if insufficient PVCs was the major reason Dasuki cited for the call for the postponement of the elections, INEC should admit those with temporary voter cards to vote in line with a resolution recently passed by the House.

He said, “INEC should speak up and tell us the way forward instead of keeping Nigerians in suspense.

“Let voters use TVCs and PVCs in line with the position already taken by the House. No eligible voter should be disenfranchised.”

The House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, also described the call for postponement of the polls as a trap for third term agenda.

Gbajabiamila had moved the motion asking INEC to allow the use of TVCs since it was apparent that many voters might not get the PVCs before February 14.

He said shifting the polls was a ploy for third term agenda which he warned would be resisted by Nigerians.

“The NSA has no role to play in the distribution of PVCs,” Gbajabiamila said.

The same sentiments were shared in the Senate, where senators asked INEC to go ahead with the poll.

The Senator representing Oyo South, Olufemi Lanlehin, said non-distribution of the outstanding PVCs was not enough reason to call for the elections postponement.

He said, “It is true that INEC has not performed up to the task concerning PVCs distribution. The situation affects all and sundry; it affects political parties and every geo-political zone. So, it is not as if it is only one particular region or group that is affected.

“The election should not be postponed for whatever reason. Since the issuance of PVC affects region, the result of the election will not affect any part of the country adversely than others. No part of the country would have advantage above another. So, the call for the postponement is unacceptable based on the reasons given.”

Similarly, the Senator representing Plateau South, Victor Lar, said the elections should be conducted because the number of registered voters is substantial.

He said, “The issue of elections is a constitutional provision. The constitution has clearly stipulated that at least not more than 90 days to the expiration of the tenure. So, the February 14 elections should be conducted.

“We must also realise that the issue of security is a serious matter. The number of registered voters is substantial. It is for the National Assembly to decide either to suspend the elections or not.”

Also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ecology and Environment, Dr. Bukola Saraki, asked Nigerians to reject attempts to postpone the polls.

Saraki, who spoke at a campaign rally in Fufu, the headquarters of Ilorin South Local Government Area of Kwara State, asked lovers of democracy to prevail on the Federal Government that the elections were held as scheduled.

In the same vein, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties has stated that the reason adduced by the NSA to call for the elections postponement was puerile and dummy meant to deceive the international community as well as portray Nigeria in bad light.

In a statement by its publicity secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the CNPP said over 60 per cent PVCs had been collected nationwide by anxious Nigerians yearning to participate in the February 14 polls.

The statement read, “CNPP is worried that NSA has joined some anti-democrats to plant land mines to scuttle our Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.

“Dasuki’s statement clearly exposed his gross incompetence in his primary mandate to secure the country; hence the Boko Haram insurgents escalated since his appointment on 22nd June, 2012.”

The Buhari Support Organisation also agreed that the consequence of the postponement of the polls could be disastrous.

The group said in Abuja on Friday that the shift would be tantamount to rigging.

The Head, (Media, Information Management and ICT) in BSO, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, who spoke at a press briefing entitled: “February 14: A date with History”, appealed to the international community to prevail on President Goodluck Jonathan to abide with the Abuja Accord sponsored by two world reputable men of peace: former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan and former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Emeka Anyaoku.

He said, “It is expected that the NSA should be conversant with the security implications of his call that the elections should be postponed.

“We condemn such provocative and crisis-prone statement from such a top government official.”

However, INEC on Friday foreclosed shifting the polls.

The electoral body said February 14 remains a valid date for the presidential election irrespective of the challenges confronting it.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said at a workshop on “Mitigation of violence in election” in Abuja that at no time had the commission sat down to review the date of the election in spite of the challenges confronting the PVCs distribution.

He recalled that the commission released the timetable for the poll about a year ago and has been vigorously working to abide by the date.

Responding to the NSA’s call for the postponement of the elections, Jega said, “I don’t want to comment on this. Like everybody we read it in the papers.

“In any case whatever I communicate is the INEC’s position and the commission has not discussed this matter and taken a position on it.”

Jega reiterated the INEC’s position that the elections would be conducted with only the PVCs which he said had been tested and proved to be valid.

He added that the PVCs would be distributed till February 13.

“Therefore, anyone calling for the use of the temporary voter cards in the February elections is only drawing us back,” he said.

Jega, however identified the Federal Capital Territory, Edo, Rivers, Bauchi, Plateau and Imo states as places prone to violence on the ground of the outcome of the primaries conducted in the state.

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