PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has promised that no effort would be spared to ensure that the general elections were held on March 28 and April 11, as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Jonathan gave the assurance while inaugurating four naval platforms at the Naval Dockyard in Lagos, on Thursday, February 19. He said: “We must conduct our elections as scheduled by the INEC because within this period, we are convinced that we will return to a time when the activities of extremists will not affect our elections,” adding: “Let me use this platform to promise my good countrymen and women that we will rout Boko Haram. We are working hard day and night and I have directed that Nigerians be briefed regularly.”
According to the president, the technical capacities of the Nigerian military in the air force and army have been greatly improved. “We commend the chief of defence staff and all the services for what they are doing. We also commend other senior naval officers and ratings for this event,” he said. The president also expressed optimism that the military would soon end insurgency in the North-East.
Those who attended the ceremony were Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin, chief of Naval Staff; Lieutenant-General Kenneth Minimah, chief of Army Staff; Air Vice-Marhsal Adesola Amosu, chief of Air Staff, and Suleiman Abba, inspector-general of Police. He said he was optimistic that the military would soon end insurgency in the North-East.
Buhari Takes Campaign Abroad
GENERAL Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, travelled abroad on Thursday, February 19, in an effort to intensify his campaign. During his short visit, Buhari is to address the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, in London United Kingdom.
A statement issued by the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation said that Buhari who left Abuja, for the UK on Thursday, February 19, on a short working visit would be expected to hold meetings with key members of the British political establishment and interact with some global institutions with stakeholder interest in the affairs of Nigeria.
But some members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have insinuated that the trip is for medical reasons. About two months ago the one of their members raised an alarm that a medical report in its possession showed that the APC presidential candidate was suffering from a number of ailments, including prostate cancer. But the APC candidate said there was no truth in the PDP allegations.
US To Help Nigeria Fight Boko Haram
THE United States government has promised to fight side-by-side with Nigeria in the war against Boko Haram, Islamic fundamental group. James Entwistle, US ambassador to Nigeria, made the commitment at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on the Safe Schools Initiative, SSI, in Abuja, on Thursday, February 19. “We have said this directly to Mr. President and to others that the United States will stand with Nigeria in the fight against terror and we stand ready to help in every possible way. The terrorists try to keep children out of school. This is unacceptable and we won’t stand by and let that happen. We can’t give up,” Entwistle said.
According to the ambassador, the US has been involved in the education of children in Nigeria for a very long time and as a means of developing the country. “Nigerian children who have been affected by the insurgency do not also need to see their hopes for education sacrificed,” he said.
In her speech earlier, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coordinating minister for the Economy and minister of Finance, said the President Goodluck Jonathan administration had built strong partnerships with other nations, donor agencies, and the private sector since the SSI was launched. The minister also disclosed that besides the $10 million contribution of the federal government to the SSI Trust Fund domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Germany and Norway sent in two million Euro and $1.5 million, respectively.
She added that the United Kingdom offered a £1 million technical assistance, while the African Development Bank would soon send in $1 million.
She added, that a separate Multi-Donor Trust Fund, MDTF, was also set up within the UN system through Gordon Brown’s efforts to support the initiative. A total of $4 million has accrued to the MDTF, which has become operational and managed by the United Nations Development Project, UNDP, as well as, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF. Okonjo-Iweala assured the international community of the determination of the administration to return all displaced children to school and even provide scholarships to those qualified to study in foreign universities.
Senate Approves Card Reader for Elections
NIGERIAN Senators on Wednesday, February 18, approved the use of card readers for the March 28 and April 11 general elections. The approval was granted after Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, addressed the Senate and demonstrated how the device would be used for the elections.
David Mark, president of the Senate, said the chamber was satisfied with its interaction with Jega and believed that the commission was prepared to conduct a free, fair and credible election. “As I said at the beginning, it is for us to assist you to conduct a free, fair and credible election and whatever we can do between now and the date you’ve chosen for the election, please, don’t hesitate to come back to us. I believe that this interaction has been very beneficial to all the parties and we believe that INEC will conduct free, fair and credible election,” Mark said.
The Senate had invited Jega to appraise it of what informed the postponement of the elections, which would have been held on February 14 and 28, as well as to demonstrate the workings of the permanent voter card reader. The Senate also wanted an assurance from the INEC chairman that the commission was prepared to conduct free and fair elections.
Jega disclosed that a plan was afoot to organise mock tests of the card readers in each geopolitical zone. “Already, we have conducted some specialised tests with partners in Texas USA and the card reader has passed in all the 13 test categories conducted in terms of its durability and versatility. In summary, it can be noted that INEC has forged ahead with the preparations for the conduct of the 2015 general elections as rescheduled for March 28 and April 11. We believe that the period of extension has offered us an opportunity to further perfect the electoral process for the delivery of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections to the satisfaction of the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. We hope that all stakeholders will continue to join hands with the commission to turn this disappointment into a blessing for our country,” Jega said.
The INEC boss said the use of the PVCs and the card reader for the conduct of the 2015 election, were in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. “They were introduced also, pursuant to the powers granted to the commission by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), INEC is empowered by Section 16(4) of the Electoral Act 2010 to and I quote: ‘wherever it considers it necessary, replace or any voter card for the time being by voters’.”
He pointed out that the decision of the commission to replace TVC with PVC was in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act as amended.
He thus argued: “An election cannot be said to be properly conducted, if the steps provided by Section 49 of the Electoral Act 2010 are not complied with. This section requires that anybody intending to vote shall present himself with his voter card to a presiding officer who shall certify him or herself that person on the person is on the register of voters before issuing such a person with ballot paper,” Jega said.
According to the chairman of the INEC, the use of the card reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters was one of the innovations introduced by the commission to improve the credibility of the electoral process and not in contravention of the Electoral Act or to the constitution. Rather, it would add value to the desires of Nigerians to have a credible election in line with international best practice. He also insisted that that the likelihood of a card reader failing was slim.