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New Nigeria Elections Chief Vows to Resist Pressure from Politicians

  • Joe DeCapua

The new head of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says he will not succumb to pressure from powerful politicians to approve questionable vote counts. Professor Attahiru Jega is also calling for tough new penalties for voter fraud.

Jega made the comments during a four hour senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor, who’s on assignment in Nigeria, says, “Jega left no one in doubt of his determination to shake-up the Nigerian electoral system.”

He says the INEC chief “admitted that, in the past, electoral officials, both at the national and state level, routinely received bribes to issue and announce false results. He says that during his tenure that would not happen.”

Jega pointed to court rulings that rejected the results of many contests in the last elections after the results were challenged.

“He aims to stop that,” says Offor, “He says that will be the last time such a thing would happen in the Nigerian political arena.”

Stopping fraud

Offor says Jega is calling for updated voter lists and the purging of names that don’t belong. Names of pets, famous people or the deceased were illegally added to voter lists.

“Even Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka said the name of civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, as well as some other African leaders, who are not even Nigerians, are on the list. And that people actually show up claiming to be these leaders so they can vote and influence the outcome of the election.”

The INEC leader wants to increase the salaries of commission staff and beef-up staff security to help ward off bribe attempts.

“He says poor pay is one of the reasons they received bribes from powerful and rich politicians,” says Offor.