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Is Nigerian Electoral Commission Backpeddling?

Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has now said it will meet this Thursday to give its final decision on whether or not to postpone this month’s election following the death of presidential candidate Adebayo Adefarati of the Alliance for Democracy party. A spokesman for INEC said late last week that the death of Adefarati would not affect the conduct of the presidential election.

Now the commission has said it has received a letter from Adefarati’s party asking for an extension of the poll. In addition, the federal government has reportedly asked a court in Abuja to declare that INEC must not postpone the election because of the death of candidate Adefarati.

Shehu Garuba is spokesman for Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign. He said the federal government was using INEC as an excuse to postpone the April 21 elections.

“What we want to say is that Nigerians and the international community should not allow themselves to be fooled by this action of the Nigerian government. What we strongly believe is that the government has taken the electoral commission to court to ask for an interpretation of the electoral act because our belief is that this government wants to postpone the election. They don’t want to go on May the 29th this year. So instead of saying we are putting off the election, they want the court to pronounce that yes, the election commission can postpone the election,” he said.

Garuba described as ridiculous the fact that the federal government, which he said has appointed the Electoral Commission, would turn around to take the same commission to court.

“That’s the ridiculous point that will expose this folly in what they are trying to do. This government has shown that it is capable not only of managing the electoral commission. In fact they have been manipulating the electoral commission. It is a trick that Nigerians and the international community should not fall for,” Garuba said.

He accused INEC of backtracking on an earlier statement by a spokesman late last week that the death of Adefarati would not affect the conduct of the presidential election.

“The day after that, the chairman of the electoral commission himself said he could not guarantee that the elections would be held. And to quote his own words, he said this death was an important man in our politics, and he is a candidate and that don’t forget that we are Africans, meaning that we should be culturally responsive to this situation and that the elections can be put off,” he said.

Garuba said the INEC is not a credible institution.

“INEC is not credible in the eyes of Nigerians because they say one thing today and then they say another thing the day after, and then the day after it’s another thing. And that’s the game they have been playing with Nigerians,” Garuba said.

Garuba said Vice President Abubakar’s camp was highly optimistic about Tuesday’s expected court ruling.

“We expect that the court, in one of the decisions, will give an interpretation to the constitution and to the law. Is the electoral commission allowed to remove any name from the ballot? A careful reading of the law says they cannot do that. So therefore, we are hopeful that the court would do the right thing on the matter of the vice president, Atiku Abubakar,” Garuba said.