The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, has dismissed speculations he was under pressure to proceed on terminal leave ahead of the forthcoming general elections, stressing he has a duty until April 11.
The speculation that the Peoples Democratic Party-controlled Federal Government intends to remove Mr. Jega before the elections has remained thick, owing to persistent calls for the INEC boss’ sack by individuals and groups rooting for the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Particularly, the campaign organisation of Mr. Jonathan had accused Mr. Jega and the leadership of the opposition All Progressives Congress of “grand conspiratorial alliance” for “electioneering manipulation”.
However, speaking Monday in Abuja at a town hall meeting, Mr. Jega said he was duty-bound to conduct the March 28 and April 11 elections.
“I am not under any pressure to resign,” Mr. Jega said. “The issue of terminal leave is voluntary. Why will I resign when I have a constitutional duty? Until, April 11, I have a duty. I think it is a disservice for anybody to resign at a stage there is serious assignment like the one I am doing.
“No sensible person, in my view, will contemplate leaving when there is a duty. I read about the pressure on me to resign or that anybody want to sack me on newspapers like everybody. Nobody has told me to proceed on terminal leave.
“Everybody in INEC is focussed on the efforts to deliver the best elections in the history of the country.”
Also, the INEC boss reiterated the readiness of the Commission to deploy electronic card readers for the elections, dismissing opposition to the arrangement as “diversionary” and a ploy to “move us backward.”
He said the postponement of the elections provided INEC with the opportunity to further demonstrate use of the card readers.
He said lthe field-testing of the devices revealed 100 per cent success.
Mr. Jega admitted the relative newness of the technology, but said INEC had done quality assurance test which he said “certified the card readers will work”.
He added that deployment of card readers for the elections would add value and credibility to Nigeria’s electoral process, as it guarantees prevention of electoral fraud.
“If we don’t use card readers, we will lose respect and credibility. We will be going back to old ways when alteration of results were possible,” he said.
On the distribution of permanent voter cards, he said about 700,000 cards are yet to be delivered. These cards, he said, belong to voters who registered during the continuous voters’ registration which ended in December last year.
He however assured all the remaining cards will be delivered and available for collection latest on Saturday, barely 24 hours to deadline for collection of the cards.
Further, he defended the deployment of the military personnel for elections, saying soldiers would not be at the polling units but would only be on standby to assist when there is breakdown of law and order which the police cannot control.
He said soldiers would only be called in for help “on the invitation of the Inspector General of Police”.
“The role of each of the security agencies is to add value to the elections, but within the constitutional framework of such agency,” he said.