Written by Abbas Jimoh & Abdulmutallib A. Abubakar:

lection to the office of President of the Federal Republic due in 2011 should hold either on January 22 or April 23 next year depending on the outcome of electoral reform bills now before the National Assembly, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Maurice Iwu proposed in Abuja yesterday.

Iwu spoke at the opening of a three day national conference for stakeholders in the electoral process with the theme “2011 General Elections: Issues and Challenges.” He said the presidential election could hold on any of the two days or any other day, depending on the final contents of electoral reforms laws.

Senate President David Mark said at the same occasion that the Electoral Act will be amended and made ready for the next general elections. Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who spoke on his behalf, also foreclosed the use of electronic voting machines in the 2011 elections. He said the most important thing is to get the electoral system right before plunging into electronic voting.

The presidential term of ailing President Umaru Yar’adua ends on May 29, 2011 and elections are due by April next year under existing election laws. The reformed electoral laws ultimately enacted by the National Assembly could force an election date in between the two dates proposed by INEC. Iwu said that until a notice of poll is issued either on August 2, 2010 or November 1, the provisional dates could still be modified.

He said, “We have prepared two provisional schedules for the elections. What this means is that whatever the National Assembly comes up with, it is incumbent on the commission to modify these dates to accommodate the provisions.”

The provisional time table also states that elections to the National Assembly could hold either on January 8 or April 9; while the governorship/state assembly elections are slated for January 15 or April 16.

While saying that for all elections in 2011, the votes will be counted at the end of the polls in every polling centre, Iwu said the commission is by this rule committed to eliminating the possibility of “those miracles” that had been known to happen in the past between polling centres and collation points.

On the voters’ register, he said, “The Commission is determined to let Nigeria’s electoral process reap the full benefits of the electronic voters register. For two distinct periods before the 2011 elections therefore, the Commission will be mounting a review and revalidation of registered voters in all constituencies across the country. The first of these exercises will take place between April and July, 2010.  We have also established a National Voters Registry and two electronic data back-up centres to facilitate processing and maintenance of vital electronic information for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.”

Senate President David Mark, whose representative had earlier declared that the National Assembly would not adopt the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for the 2011 polls, however advised INEC to give priority to voters’ education and sensitisation.

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