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Lawyers differ over NSA’s call for election postponement

Dasuki had at the London think-tank Chatham House on Thursday, called on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega to…

Dasuki had at the London think-tank Chatham House on Thursday, called on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega to postpone the elections by three months to enable it conclude the distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to over 30 million outstanding registered voters.
But in a statement over the weekend, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Austin Alegeh (SAN) expressed deep concerns to the calls for the postponement of the general elections, insisting that the non-distribution of the PVCs and the security situation in the North East are not new issues to justify a three-month postponement.
To resolve the difficulties currently faced in the collection of PVCs, NBA called for a system for collection of the PVCs at the Polling Units, extension of the collection period to February 13th, and for the federal government  to set aside two work-free days to enable the collection of PVCs.
Speaking with Daily Trust Sam Ologun-Orisa (SAN) said postponing the elections will not augur well for the country’s democracy, describing the announcement as ‘kite’ by the NSA.
“The dates were not fixed this year, INEC is the body recognized by law to conduct elections, and to fix dates. The law specifically mandates INEC to fix dates for elections and INEC has complied by giving us timetable in accordance with the law,” he said.
For Abdul Mahmud President of the Public Interest Lawyers’ League (PILL), the postponement is not in the public interest coming so late into the campaigns. He insisted that the election must go on, adding that it is the duty of the security agencies in the country to handle whatever security breach that might arise.
On its part,  an organization called  The Situation Room  which is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) called on the political parties and civic groups including religious organisations, labour unions, etc to mobilise citizens to pick up their PVCs in the centres designated by INEC
The Situation Room described the call as an unnecessary interference in the independence of INEC as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution stating that dates for the elections can only be set by INEC.
It called on INEC to put in place every measure to ensure unhindered and speedy distribution of any outstanding and uncollected PVCs. We continue to urge INEC to update the public on PVC distribution in states that have been most impacted by delays.
The Situation Room  also called on Nigerians to go out en-masse to collect their PVCs, and prepare to cast their votes for candidates of their choice in the upcoming general elections.
However, in a statement Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said INEC has the powers under 26(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 to postpone the elections, adding that Jega had expressed his  commitment to holding the Presidential election on February 14.
“However, the same Chairman of INEC, Professor Attairu Jega, was earlier reported to have unambiguously expressed his reservations about conducting elections in some parts of the country, especially, the three Northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe,” he said.
On his part, Barrister Ugochukwu Osuagwu supported the calls for the postponement of the elections due to non-distribution of the PVCs and insurgency in parts of the country, saying whoever wins any of the elective offices without the participation of most eligible voters would not enjoy legitimacy.
Citing Sections 135 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, he said the president has the powers to postpone an election in war situation, insisting that the country is currently at war following the attacks in the Northeast by the Boko Haram sect.

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