The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday fixed November 30, for the conduct of supplementary governorship election in Anambra State.
The National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega made this known while addressing a news conference in Abuja. He rejected the call by the All Progressives Congress, APC, that the election should be cancelled.
INEC had last Monday declared the result of the Saturday, November 16, governorship election in the state inconclusive after cancelling the polls in 210 polling units across the state. Jega then appealed to all stakeholders in the state to cooperate with the commission to ensure that the a successful supplementary poll.
He acknowledged that INEC's performance during the controversial election fell short of what its leadership had expected but insisted that irregularities that occurred during the polls were not substantial enough to warrant outright cancellation of the result.
He further stated that the Commission received complaints from many stakeholders and held meetings with its field officers before taking the decision to go ahead with the supplementary poll. His words, "INEC prepared for that election more than it had ever prepared for any election, but there is no doubt that INEC's operational capability could not be said to be its best. But we did our best under very difficult circumstances.
"Nigerians are aware that the Returning Officer for the election, Prof James Epoke while announcing the results of that election declared it inconclusive and announced that there would be a supplementary election. "We regret that there is no other decision that could be taken by the Commission other than to conduct a supplementary election in the areas where elections were cancelled."
Prof. Jega maintained that there was no substantial evidence to support the call for the cancellation of the election as most of the allegations that had been made were not substantiated. Commenting on the delay in the deployment of the electoral officers and materials during the polls, Jega admitted that this contributed to the problems that erupted during conduct of the elections.
He further regreted that in spite if the detailed plans made by INEC, the outcome of the election was not the best. Responding to allegations by some of the opposition candidates that three different forms of voters register were given to political parties by INEC, he said " We have reviewed the register and are convinced that it is the same register we gave to the parties.
It is very unfair to accuse INEC of giving out a different register; we challenge the parties to come out with evidence that the register that was used was different from the one that was given to the parties 30 days before the election." He insisted that the only difference was the age of the registers presented on different days. Commenting on the alleged disenfranchisement of some voters during the polls he said "this is quite regrettable as we had briefed the parties on how the number of registered voters came down from 1.8 million to 1.7 million based on INEC's efforts to clean up the register.
"We were determined to discard the use of manually compiled register. We did a continuous voter registration and used it to correct the problem of manual register. Anybody who voted in 2007 and had his name in the addendum register must take part in the continuous voter registration which we did last August to have his details captured in the updated voters register."
He said that majority of those alleged to have been disenfranchised, must have been those who would have engaged in multiple registration or who did not take part in the continuous voters registration in order to have their names in the electronic register. "No evidence has been adduced to warrant the cancellation of the election; the Electoral Act is very clear and our guidelines are very clear that if on presentation of your voter's card and your name is not on the register you will not be allowed to vote. "
"Our electoral officers were trained to allow those whose names were only on the electronic register to vote. I can speak emphatically that the PDP governorship candidate Mr Tony Nwoye who alleged that he was not allowed to vote, even though his name was on the manual register� Since we were not using the manual register, and he did not use the opportunity we provided to get his name on the electronic register, we couldn't have allowed him to vote. "We recognize that the election we conducted in Anambra State was not perfect, but we are satisfied that the evidence that has been adduced is not sufficient to warrant a total cancellation of the election."
Jega also, assured Nigerians that "we are not partisan and we have the capacity to ensure that anybody that compromises the elections is made to face the wrath of the law. We have handed over the electoral officer who compromised the election in Idemili North over to the police and he is being investigated and would soon be arraigned.
"We are determined to keep on improving. We are still investigating what happened and we will ensure that anybody that had a hand in what happened in Anambra State would be brought to book. There are other people who should take the blame for what happened in Anambra by enticing our staff to compromise the process." Commenting , on the arrest of some APC members who claimed to be observers for the polls, he said, "We were very strict as we accredited only those who applied within the time frame.
In previous elections we were very thorough as we had to ask for the photographs of the applicants. For the Anambra State election, given the complaints we had received we insisted that the would-be monitors must be in Awka to get their accreditation. "We even arrested somebody that was trying to impersonate another person.
He is with the police and would soon be prosecuted. It was that thorough and the accreditation that we did aided the arrest of fake observers from Osun State." According to Jega, the Osun State delegation of observers forged their documents.
"They did not come to Awka to collect their accreditation; rather they camped in Owerri. Some of them have been arraigned before a Magistrate Court" he said. He accused the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, of Imo State of attempting to take over the prosecution of these people.
On the use of commercial vehicles for conveying electoral materials, he said all over the world, electoral management bodies always used ad-hoc staff during elections "as no organization can put on its pay roll, all the staff it needs. No electoral body can have all the vehicles it needs in an election. When we came on board, we made a case for one four wheel drive vehicle per local government across the country. You also need vehicles to transport people and materials.
These challenges should not have arisen, it was due to human error. "When we prepared for the Anambra election, we did a budget for the number of vehicles that would be required, and we provided funding for it. So these are some of the things we are probing. We want to know whether inadequate number of vehicles were hired. We want to know whether some of them broke down or the drivers did not turn up on the day of the elections."
Commenting no the use of students from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, he said those who complained over this misunderstood INEC procedure. "In all elections we do, we have ensured that the NYSC members are presiding officers. But there are also Assistant Presiding Officers, APO's, and others. where there are insufficient number of corps members. We have always complemented them with students from federal universities.
We did it in Edo, we did it in Ondo and we also did it in the 2011 elections as there were not enough NYSC members to be appointed presiding officers. Even for us to get enough corps members to be Presiding Officers, we had to bring in some of them from Enugu and Delta States.
We have been using students from tertiary institutions to complement members of the NYSC". Also responding to a question on the APC's petition to INEC, he said "I have looked at it and have asked a team to also look at it. All the allegations contained there were a repetition made by the APC candidate which we had replied to.
As I said earlier there are no sufficient ground to warrant the cancellation of the election. If the purpose of the petition is to convince us to cancel the election, I am sorry to say that there is no sufficient evidence to warrant the cancellation of the elections."