Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nigerian Senate Approves Jega as Election Chief

The Nigerian Senate unanimously approved the appointment of Attahiru Jega as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which runs elections in Africa's most populous country.

Jega was confirmed as head of the electoral agency, Senate President David Mark said after a vote today in Abuja, the capital. The senate also approved six nominees as electoral commissioners to assist Jega in conducting future polls in the West African country.

"They need to be transparent" in the conduct of next year's general elections, Mark said.

President Goodluck Jonathan on June 8 nominated Jega, the vice chancellor of Bayero University in the northern city of Kano, to replace Maurice Iwu. He will oversee general elections due to be held by April in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer. The last vote, held in 2007, was marred by widespread irregularities such as violence and ballot-stuffing, according to local and foreign observers.

Jonathan, who succeeded Umaru Yar'Adua, who died on May 5, has vowed to make next year's vote credible. He said on June 21 that it was too soon to announce whether he would be a candidate because it would damage his government's effectiveness.

Nigeria, with more than 140 million people, has suffered periodic outbursts of religious and communal violence that have claimed more than 13,000 lives since 1999, according to Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Army officers have seized power six times since Nigeria's independence from the U.K. in 1960, once sparking a civil war from 1967 to 1970.


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