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Polls: No going back on card readers – Jega

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega has said the commission won’t reverse a decision to use Card Readers during the…

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega has said the commission won’t reverse a decision to use Card Readers during the general elections.
 Jega was summoned by the Senate after Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba had alleged on Tuesday that the use of the card readers violates the electoral law.
The Commission had come under heavy criticism especially from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over the use of the readers to accredit voters.
However, Jega said at a Senate session yesterday that the use of the readers was legal.
He also said it would help check electoral fraud usually perpetrated by politicians in connivance with INEC staff at polling booths.

The INEC boss, who quoted relevant sections of the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act 2010, argued that INEC did not go outside of the law with the introduction of card readers for voter accreditation.
He said section 52 (2) of the electoral Act quoted by the Senate Leader only prohibited the use of electronic voting machines.
He added that section 49 of the same law required that any person intending to vote must submit themselves for accreditation.
Also, Jega said, sections 78 and 118 of the constitution grants INEC powers to register voters and conduct elections in Nigeria.
The INEC boss said card readers were used in Ghana, Kenya and other African countries adding: “We are on solid legal ground.”
 Buying PVCs useless
On reports of Permanent Voters Cards being snatched, stolen or bought over by politicians, Jega said such action was “useless” because biometric data of voters would be taken together during accreditation.
He said 3000 PVCs were recently snatched from INEC staff in Ebonyi state but that such cards can’t be used to vote by other people.
Jega said desperate politicians want to win by hook or by crook.
He said only about 0.03 percent of the card readers were found to be faulty after being subjected to 13 tests both in Nigeria and in Texas, United States.
He said the commission had already replaced PVCs that were lost before December 2014 and January 2015.
It will be illegal to shift polls again
On the possibilities of further postponement of the elections, Jega said doing so would be unconstitutional as the time limit provided by law will elapse in April.
He maintained that no patriotic Nigerian should ever contemplate any further polls shifting.
When asked if after six weeks, the service chiefs could again ask for postponement, the INEC chairman said “I don’t think anybody will contemplate further extension after six weeks. It will be unconstitutional. We hold the interest of the nation at heart. I believe that the security agencies are also patriotic Nigerians.”
But when senators kept repeating the questions Jega finally said: “the security of elections on March 28 and April is a very difficult question to answer.
“I have said it consistently that there are things that are not under our control and for which we cannot give definite and categorical answers. It’s fruitless to give a definite answer on that. I think that question should be directed appropriately.”
“Senator George Akume asked me to state categorically whether I can guarantee the sanctity of the 28 March and April 11 dates for the general elections. I think it is a very difficult question to answer,’ he said.
At another point, Jega said, “I beg to be excused, I can’t answer question for the service chiefs.
“We should be fair also to the military. Soldiers are also patriotic Nigerians. Let us give them the benefit of doubt. I don’t see how anybody will contemplate any extension beyond these six weeks,” he added.
On Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), he said they had been provided with polling units in three restive states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
High PVC collection in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa
On why there is high level of PVC collection in the restive north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, Jega said only two local government areas are under the control of the insurgence in Yobe state, four in Adamawa and that PVC were distributed in some of those states as far back as July, 2014.
“No regional slant in PVC distribution, we selected two states in each geo-political zone in order to avoid being accused of regional slant,” he added.
The INEC boss said of the 68 million PVCs, 66 million have been produced and are in the states for distribution to voters but added: “The problem is with collection.”
Commenting at the end of the session, Senate President David Mark said they will continue to encourage INEC to organize free, fair, credible and transparent election saying, ‘nobody seated here wants to come back through the back door. We have benefitted from these interactions.”
Senators endorse card readers
Ita Enang from Akwa Ibom:“I am very satisfied with the presentation and happy that the card readers will be used in the election. But I am worried about the security concerns he (Jega) raised.’
Senator Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra): “I am satisfied and I will score him 90 percent”.
Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe) said: “We are okay with what we heard from the INEC chairman and we will encourage him to continue with the good works he is doing.”
Senator Olugbenga Kaka said he too, was satisfied with the presentations on the use of the card readers.
Senator Mohammed Lafiagi (APC, Kwara), also spoke in the affirmation saying that Jega was able to convince his critics about the use of card readers for the election.
For his part, Senator Olugbenga Kaka, representing Ogun East Senatorial District, also expressed support to INEC for the measures take to strengthen the electoral process.

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