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Nigeria Electoral Body 'Very Prepared' For Saturday’s Vote

  • Peter Clottey

Nigeria's electoral chief and academic Attahiru Jega attends a meeting with staff from the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja, March 17, 2011

Nigeria's electoral chief and academic Attahiru Jega attends a meeting with staff from the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja, March 17, 2011

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the electoral body is set and fully prepared to organize the National Assembly elections throughout the country Saturday.

Nick Dazan, INEC assistant director of public affairs, says the electoral body has corrected the “mistakes of the past” and has been proactive in its preparations to ensure the vote meets the expectations of Nigerians, as well as that of the international community.

“The commission is very, very prepared for the elections to the National Assembly, that is the House of Representatives and Senate that will hold tomorrow. Already, all the materials that we intend to use for the elections have been delivered to all the states,” said Dazan.

“All the ad hoc staff, 360,000 of them, is already at different locations across the country to conduct the elections. So, we are ready,” he added.

The National Assembly vote is the first in a series of elections the electoral body will be organizing, including the presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections.

Dazan says INEC distributed materials needed for Saturday’s vote in time to ensure the vote proceeds smoothly.

“The commission has done all in its capacity to ensure that the elections are going to be free, fair and credible, that a level playing field has been provided for all contestants, and that our staffs are going to comport themselves with transparency and integrity, and that, at the end of the day, we will deliver elections that are acceptable to Nigerians and members of the international community. That is what we are looking at,” said Dazan.

He also described as unfortunate what many say was incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s one-man debate ahead of the presidential vote. Dazan, however, denies the debate will undermine the electoral process.

“The commission would have preferred a situation where the debates were robust, a situation where all the candidates were present but, unfortunately, this did not take place at one particular point. Be that as it may, the fact that not all the contestants were there to address the issues does not detract from the sanctity and quality of the election,” Dazan said.

Meanwhile, observers will watch to see whether election officials can prevent the violence and fraud that badly marred the last polls in 2007. European Union monitors described those elections as "not credible" and the results were challenged in court for months.

Nigeria's electoral commission has pledged to make this year's polls free and fair and has introduced new voting procedures designed to prevent cheating and maintain order.

On Thursday, an opposition party in the oil-rich Niger Delta accused security forces of intimidation after one of its candidates was charged with treason and murder.

John James Akpanudoedehe, a candidate for governor in Akwa Ibom state, was charged with treason last week after rioting between his supporters [from the Action Congress of Nigeria] and rivals from the ruling People’s Democratic Party. He was granted bail, but was immediately re-arrested on a murder charge.

His supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

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