– As legal activists, opposition kick
+ What Nigeria will lose with polls postponement
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega and Nigerian security apparatchiks are on fire for postponing the February 14 and February 28 National Elections.
In phone interviews with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Sunday, February 8, 2015, legal activists, the opposition and the critical public said the poll shift could truncate the nation’s nascent democracy.
Not disputing the fact that INEC acted within the ambit of the law, some of our respondents argued that the postponement of the elections would negatively affect the electorate, the political parties and the electoral umpire.
‘IT’S A MISTAKE’ – PROF ITSE SAGAY
He, however, said the six-week extension was still within the law.
“The issue is not the postponement, it is about the trust the electorate have in INEC. How does the postponement affect the morale of the people? How does it affect the credibility of the commission? It is a mistake and I hope that there are no very severe consequences for our democracy as a result of such a mistake.”
‘Election postponement has adverse effects’ – MR. TAYO OYETIBO (SAN)
Another prominent lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo also added his voice to the raging debate on poll postponement. He said: “The postponement was constitutional as long as the election is held within the days stipulated before the handover date. The problem with this current scenario is that the poll shift will likely demoralise the electorate who have been eager and might have made sacrifices to vote in the February 14 election. It will also mean the political parties will have to spend more as campaigns will continue.”
‘JONATHAN, INEC deceived Nigerians’ -CHIEF AGBAJE
Meanwhile constitutional lawyer, Chief Fred Agbaje has rapped Jega and security agencies for postponing the general elections. He voiced his opposition in a telephone conversation with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Sunday, February 8, 2015.
“They have a hidden agenda because INEC initially said it was ready for the elections and indeed all eventuality. So, why the sudden summersault? Why the 180 degrees summersault? INEC and the Federal Government knew what they were doing but pretended to be ready for the elections. What security structures will they put in place to ensure adequate security? If it is about Boko Haram, did it start today? What happened to the billions budgeted to fight the insurgents? Let’s look at the financial losses. Who will bear the cost INEC has spent so far in its preparations for the election. The same hopeless and impoverished tax payers? In the face of this dwindling economy which Nigeria has no solution. Yes, the Electoral Act allows INEC to postpone elections on grounds of threat to rule of law, national disaster, which has made elections impossible. But these reasons are not absolute. They are subject to being cogent and verifiable. In order words, INEC cannot just wake up on the wrong side of the bed and postpone elections. What are their reasons? Those reasons are contrary to the Electoral Act.”
‘INEC was ill prepared for the elections’ – AFOLABI FASHANU, SAN
According to the legal expert, as long as the postponement did not exceed the handover date, there would be no constitutional crisis.
“It is unfortunate that INEC has demonstrated that it was ill-prepared for the general elections. This is evident in its difficulty to successfully distribute the PVC.”
‘Nigeria is a country of unserious people’ – EMEKA NGIGE (SAN)
He said although INEC had the opportunity to shift the poll not closer than 30 days to the handover date, it should not have postponed it that far.
Ngige said: “The European Union has left their various homes and countries. The Americans have come here to observe the elections. They have already started mapping out their areas of coverage for distribution of non-sensitive materials and other things. Now, they are going to meet an announcement that elections have been postponed for six weeks. We expect them to go back to their countries and return in the next six weeks, as if they have no other thing to do.”
‘MAY 29, 2015 IS SACROSANCT’ – CHIEF MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN
Also speaking with ENCOMIUM Weekly respected human rights activist Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said the Electoral Act gives INEC the power to postpone elections by a period of not more than 150 days before the expiration of the present term (May 29) and not more than 30 days before the end of the current administration.
“It gives INEC the power to do so when it believes that there is danger in holding the elections, due to, for example, insurgency or insurrection. That power is statutory and it is with INEC. INEC, as the official organiser of the elections, can only deal with its aspect of the elections, which does not include security, for example. Both INEC staff and the voters need security. I understand that they have done this on the ground that they want to carry out a final onslaught on Boko Haram in the North-East. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. But the important thing is that, under the constitution, May 29 is a sacrosanct day.”
‘They Have Hidden Agenda’ – BARR. GODWIN AJAYI
Asaba, Delta-based legal practitioner Barrister Godwin Ajayi also berated INEC for the postponement of the General elections. He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in an SMS he suspects a hidden agenda.
“The reason for postponement is not cogent enough. By so doing, one is left to conclude there is a hidden agenda. The legal implication is that Nigerians are firm.”
‘IT’S A SAD DAY FOR OUR DEMOCRACY’ -FESTUS KEYAMO
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, described Saturday, February 7 as a sad day for the country. He said while INEC had all the powers to postpone elections, there were indications that the Peoples Democratic Party could allegedly manipulate the electoral umpire.
“It’s indeed a sad day for our democracy. Nigerians have to be vigilant.
“Still on Elections Postponement, Lagos-based lawyer and public affairs analyst Onyebuchi Ememanka has urged Nigerians to appreciate the INEC Chairman’s predicament in taking the difficult decision of shifting the polls. And admiting that Jega was under pressure, he told ENCOMIUM Weekly in a Facebook chat there is no cause for alarm.
In his words: “INEC is constitutionally empowered to conduct elections and this power includes the power to fix election dates. So on this score, I see no serious negative implications. Again, by our laws, elections must be concluded at least 30 days before the date for the inauguration of the new government. So to that extent, I think everything is still in order. The man must be under intense pressure. It is clear the Presidency wants the elections shifted. First, it was the issue of the PVCs, but Jega and his lieutenants at INEC punctured that one by showing their level of preparedness. But when security was introduced into the equation, Jega became helpless. You need a secure environment to conduct elections everywhere and so when the security chiefs have told you that they won’t be able to guarantee the security of the elections, including the materials and election staff, then Jega had no option. So, anybody in the shoes of Jega would have done exactly the same thing. My advise to Nigerians is to be patient and show understanding with INEC. Six weeks is here already”
We also spoke with activist lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa. “The contemplation of the Electoral Act and the law is not anticipatory of a holistic postponement of the elections. It is anticipated that may be in some areas or parts of the states there may be emergencies, natural disasters or some security challenges that have made elections difficult or impossible. INEC has no powers for holistic cancellation or postponement of all the elections. Jega would have confronted the trap of security challenge with courage because there is no way the situation in some parts of the north east would abate in six weeks. There should be no further shift in the election date. I still believe in INEC and Jega.”
PDP IS JITTERY’ – BARR. ADEKOYEJO ADETOWUBO
“There is no doubt that the PDP household is in the fear of the unknown. Nonetheless, it has an excusable argument as regards security in the north-east. But the Nigerian does not understand how to trust a government that has approached the issue of insurgency by relaxing in the cool of the capital city. A victory against the mad-cow group on the battle field will much reveal foul play by Abuja on the dreaded disease of the cow-ward Boko Haram and may compound the chances of the ruling party retaining the central seat. As regards the legal implication, Nigeria is a constitutional democracy and it behoves on the umpire and the government to deliver before the expiration of May 29, lest they have failed the polity and should therefore be shipped out with a revolting fire. Mr. President and the National Assembly will have no other option than to step out come May 29. They would have made an inevitable history.”