The alarm raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the delay by President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the revised 1999 Constitution as well as the release of the N87.7 billion required for the conduct of the 2011 polls is very timely. This is because the wrangling over the signing of the amended constitution is an unnecessary distraction and has begun to eat into INECâ€™s timetable.
Already, two weeks have been lost and the chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had to raise the alarm and warn of the dire consequences the delay is going to cause as far as the programmes of INEC for the 2011 elections are concerned.
According to Jega, who met with leaders of all the registered political parties at the INEC headquarters yesterday in Abuja,capital of Nigeria, â€œbased on the inadequacies of the existing votersâ€™ register, we said our preference would be to produce a fresh votersâ€™ register if we had the funds and time, otherwise we would embark on cleaning up of the existing register. Since then, we thought that we got the time through the amendments to the Electoral Act. We also thought that we had the funds following consideration of the supplementary appropriation Bill for INEC sent to the National Assembly by Mr. President. Again, unfortunately, we are not sure where we stand at the moment.
â€œInstead there have been controversies over whether or not the president has to assent to the constitution amendmentsâ€¦to the best of my knowledge, the president is yet to assent to the new Electoral Act. All these have constrained our preparations for both the votersâ€™ registration exercise and the elections.â€
The non-release of the N87.7 billion supplementary appropriation for the votersâ€™ registration exercise, the delay in the signing of the amended 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act constitute a serious setback to INECâ€™s programmes as rightly pointed out by Jega. Except some fifth columnists want Jega and his team to fail, the authorities must act fast to address all the issues that might constitute a stumbling block to organising credible elections next year.
From all indications, it may not be business as usual for those who always pull the strings behind the scene to create a fertile ground for elections to be organised in a shoddy manner so that they could rig themselves to power. They will fail this this around because churches, non-government organisations, youth groups and individuals are all mobilising to ensure a hitch-free election next year.
A situation where the electoral process is manipulated in favour of a few unpopular candidates will no longer be tolerated. That is why every Nigerian must rally round INEC to ensure that it compiles a credible votersâ€™ register and conduct elections that will be adjudged by all as free and fair. Jega is not crying wolf where there is none. The impending setbacks to his programmes are real and these impediments must be removed quickly for INEC to achieve the desired result.