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2015: Political parties tackle Jega over campaigns

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

Opposition political parties and civil society groups have joined issues with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, over claims that the commission was compiling a list of electoral law breakers.

In separate interviews with our correspondents, in Abuja, on Tuesday, members of the opposition and civil society groups dismissed INEC’s threats which they said would amount to nothing.

The All Progressives Congress said the INEC Chairman, had since lost the moral right and authority to threaten anybody on the issue of early campaigns.

Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Nigerians expected Jega to speak out when the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, started its campaign ahead of others.

Mohammed said, “He (Jega) has not impressed anybody. Mu’azu (PDP national chairman) to Bauchi, Jega did not say anything. The President has been going round, he went to Minna, Sokoto, Ilorin, Imo and he is in Kaduna as we speak, Jega did not say anything.  Has he now found his voice?

“It is like an umpire in a football match who has allowed a team to score a goal using their hands shouting that he was to maintain the rules, it is too late.”

Speaking in a similar vein, National Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwuanyawu said INEC has since showed that it lacks the courage to discipline political parties found culpable of contravening electoral laws.

The party said it was unfortunate that the leadership of the commission has refused to heed its calls on some political parties that are campaigning when the commission was yet to lift the ban on such activity.

Nwanyanwu, said it was wrong for Jega to accuse all the political parties of contravening the law when he (Jega) knew the parties that were involved in the illegality.

He said, “That statement by Jega was unfortunate. It was unfortunate because we have been calling his attention to the activities of some political parties contravening the electoral law on campaign.

“Instead of mentioning the parties that are involved, he said all e parties. That is wrong and unfortunate. It is not acceptable and we won’t accept that.

“If INEC does no longer has the power to do its job, it must tell us instead of saying all the parties have done this or that.

“We are not campaigning and we are not doing any rally. The commission knows this.”

A civil rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and the President, Nigerian Voters Assembly, Mr. Mashood Erubami also said the INEC boss was not to be taken serious because there was no basis to do so in the issue in question.

While Adegboruwa urged Nigerians to take INEC’s assurance “with a pinch of salt”, Erubami described it as a contradiction.

They both spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH in Abuja.

Adegboruwa, who is also a legal practitioner, said, “The information from INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, that the commission is compiling a list of election rules breakers, should be taken with a pinch of salt, having regard to the previous records of the commission.

“Under and by virtue of the 1999 Constitution and indeed the Electoral Act, INEC is saddled with the responsibility of directing and supervising the affairs and conduct of political parties registered by it.

“But this has not been the case at all. It is indeed better and more dignifying for INEC to admit that the political parties currently existing, especially the PdP and APC are more powerful than INEC.

“The commission has become like a toothless bull dog that is only barking and cannot bite. Otherwise, what is the essence of INEC making rules that it cannot enforce or implement? And if this is the trend now, pre-2015 election, only God can say what will become of 2015, when the real election comes.”

He also said it was not enough to just compile list of election rules breakers for the sake of compilation.

According to him, the commission should have the courage to publish these names and hand them over to the police for proper investigation and prosecution.

Adegboruwa, said beyond this, the political parties responsible for flouting INEC rules, should be sanctioned by INEC, either through  disqualification of the party or candidate or prevent them from participating in the particular election for which they breached the  rules.

On his part Erubami said, “It is a contradiction, what we have to know is that INEC lacks the capacity to bring election offenders to account for their offences. The INEC has solicited for the assistance of the Nigerian Bar Association, all to no avail.

“Therefore compiling the list of offenders is not the end of electoral impunity but a means to achieving the end.

“Though I believe Jega has the strong will to deal with the issue, the system will not allow it. The political hawks will not empower him to deal with them; doing so will be committing class suicide.”

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