By HENRY UMORU, Abuja

 


INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega said in Paris that the 2015 general election would be the best ever conducted in the country, based on strategies now in place.

Jega-Election-baba

INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega

Jega, who spoke on Thursday at a luncheon in his honour by the staff of the embassy, said the Commission would spare no effort to make the general elections, not only the best in Nigeria’s political history, but also the most acceptable to the citizenry.“Between now and 2015, INEC will put many structures in place to ensure that the 2015 elections are not only the best in the history of our country but also the most accepted by our citizens.”

Jega led an INEC delegation to Paris at the invitation of Franch Government to observe the French presidential election on Sunday,as part of the efforts to reform INEC electoral system.

According to a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, by Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman on Friday, he highlighted that among measures being put in place was the ongoing consolidation and updating of the voter register and the plan to issue a chip-based permanent voter cards to all voters.

“I assure  Nigerians that INEC will achieve seamless integration of the data of voters and institutionalise continuous voter registration before the 2015 general elections.”

Jega said INEC had set up data bases at the national level and in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory aimed at institutionalising a system of continuous voter registration.

“We are now working very hard to clean up that data and consolidate it and to ensure that both the states’ data and the national data are well integrated.

“Our hope is that before the end of this year, we will have the technology sorted out so that people can register continuously.

“And it will not just be fresh registration; but people who have changed their addresses can apply, following a stipulated procedure wherever they are, to have their registration status updated.”

He said if INEC could achieve that there would be no need to continue to do a major registration before an election.

Commenting on Diaspora voting, Jega noted that it was a possibility, but there was need for adequate technology to be put in place.

He added that for that to be possible there must be a consensus of opinion about what methodology to use if INEC was to provide the opportunity for Diaspora voting.

“It is possible and we are not opposed to it as a Commission because whatever opportunity we can make available, so long as it can be done transparently and without any likely negative consequences.

“Luckily, 2015 is three years or so down the line, we will do our best as a Commission, we have not yet discussed the matter and decide how to go about it, but I’m sure we will have to confront it soon.”

Ahead of the Sunday presidential election, the INEC delegation was expected to meet with the Head of France’s Elections Committee and Political Studies, BEEP, for a briefing on the French electoral system.

On Election Day, the Jega-led delegation would be in Melun district outside Paris to observe the polling while the team would also meet with the Principal Private Secretary to the Prefect, Mr Bruno Pireyre, presiding Judge of the County Court and also Chairman of the Electoral Commission of the Department.

Jega would also hold bilateral talks on Monday with leaders of the French Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for conducting the country’s elections, before departing France to Nigeria.

Other members of the INEC delegation are Dr. Nuhu Yakubu, Mrs Thelma Iremiren , Dame Gladys Nwafor , Prof. Mohammed Kuna, Kayode Idowu and Mrs Blessing Obidiegwu.

 



By  IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, Abuja  & Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa

 


Mixed reactions yesterday trailed the Supreme Court’s  decision upholding the nomination of Seriake Dickson as the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate for Bayelsa State in the February 11, 2012  governorship election won by the incumbent governor, Mr Seriake Dickson in the state, saying that the nomination of candidates for elective positions were exclusive preserves of political parties.

timipre-sylva

Timipre Sylva

In its judgement delivered by Justice John Fabiyi, the apex court further dismissed the ex-governor’s cross appeal which prayed for an order of the court for his suit to be heard at the Federal High Court for it lacks merit.

The court maintained that the fact that the Sylva paied N5.5million, presented himself to the Screening Committee of his party, and campaigned extensively for the fresh primary elections fixed by his party for November 19, 2011, to choose its candidate to stand for governor of Bayelsa in elections fixed for February 12, 2012, indicated that he had abandoned the results of the primaries he won in January 2011.“Furthermore, the primaries that the 1st respondent (Sylva) won in 2011 fades into insignificance since the elections for which the said primaries was conducted were cancelled.

“The 1st respondent (Sylva) won the primaries conducted in January 2011 and his name forwarded to PDP as the PDP’s candidate for the elections slated for April 2011. With the cancellation of theWith the cancellation of the elections of April 2011, the primaries conducted in January 2011, is no more of any relevance.

“INEC has the sole responsibility to fix dates for elections, and to my mind if INEC fixes a date for elections and for whatever reason, be it logistic, I do not think anyone has a cause of action against INEC for cancelling an election (not held) and rescheduling elections for another day.

“Furthermore, INEC fixed the elections for April 2011 on its understanding that the 1st appellants term would end in 28/5/11, but with the court’s judgment that 1st appellant tenure would end on 18/5/12, the need to cancel elections for April 2011 was justified.

“Courts in Nigeria do not have jurisdiction to question the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for election,” the court said.

Apart from upholding the nomination, the Supreme Court also unanimously upheld the PDP’s appeal which challenged the decision by the Court of Appeal over the former Governor Chief Timiprey Sylva’s suit against Dickson’s nomination.“In sum, the 1st respondent is/was no longer the PDP’s candidate for gubernatorial elections held on 12/2/12 simply because he did not take part in the primaries for that election which was held on 19/11/11.

“Since the general elections fixed for April 2011 were cancelled by INEC, the provisions of section 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act are no longer applicable. With the cancellation of the general elections, primaries held In January 2011 are irrelevant for determining PDP’s candidate for governor of Bayelsa state,” the court held.

Meanwhile, the apex court yesterday, insisted that the case of Sylva was clearly distinct from the decided case-law in Amaechi v. INEC, emphasizing that whereas Governor Ameachi contested the primaries and won, but was barred from contesting the general elections, his party, the PDP was unable to give cogent and verifiable reasons why he was not allowed to contest the election.

It noted that in the instant case, “Sylva contested primaries in January 2011 for a general election fixed for April 2011. The general election was cancelled. Fresh primaries were fixed by this party, but he was not allowed to contest.

“There is thus no similarity in Ameachi case and this case. In Amaechi’s case, he was barred from contesting the general election. In this case Governor Sylva was barred from contesting primaries of his party.”

However, former governor Sylva has reacted to the judgement, describing it as not only injustice but ‘’a dark moment,’’ for the nation’s democracy and justice system in the country. Sylva also cursed those involved in scuttling his ambition to run for his second term in office, adding that, ‘’Everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgment of history and the judgment of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity” even as his successor, Seriake Dickson praised the Judiciary for being the last hope of the common man.

According to Dickson, “By this judgment today (yesterday), the Judiciary has once again demonstrated its relevance as the pillar of democracy. We commend the judiciary for upholding the essence of justice, equity and fairness without which democracy and the political system would be in danger.

“Indeed, today’s judgment is victory for democracy, the good people of Bayelsa State and Ijaw nation. Justice has again been done. We congratulate the PDP and its team of lawyers for their resilience and observance of due legal process which led to this victory.

“We assure you that the trajectory of peace and rapid development which the new government has brought about is guaranteed. We are dedicated to your service and we will not let you down on the delivery of our restoration agenda,’’ Dickson said.

The ex-governor in a statement signed  by his Media Aide, Doifie Ola, however, pointed out despite the set back at by the Supreme Court judgement, he remained optimistic that his future political carrear was bright just as he accepted the judgement of the apex court as a democrat.
The statement read, ‘’As a democrat, Chief Timipre Sylva accepts today’s (yesterday’s) ruling of the Supreme Court. He however considers the decision of the apex court as dark moment for democracy and justice in Nigeria.

’’Sylva believes today’s ruling is only the judgement of man and, certainly, not justice, (of God). He says after this, everyone involved in the Bayelsa State governorship matter shall still face the judgement of history and the judgement of God. Neither history nor God will condone impunity.
‘’Sylva thanks his teeming followers in Bayelsa State and lovers of democracy across Nigeria and beyond, especially, in Bayelsa State, who held out despite intimidation, threats, and pressure to abandon the part of democracy and justice.
’’He extends his special gratitude to members of the Bayelsa State caucus of the National Assembly, who stood firm on democracy, as well as members of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, seniors citizens from across the country, and all his supporters. He commends the media and the human rights community for speaking out on the side of truth and justice.

‘’Sylva remains confident that he still has a long and bright political career ahead of him.”

However, Governor Seriake in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson said, “We want to caution all politicians in the state to face issues of leadership and governance and eschew political divisions and rancor. And above all, they should not play politics with the Judiciary.
“To the citizens, we enjoin them not to fall to the antics of those who have misused state resources and public power as well as those who are desperate for power at all cost, who now resort to misinformation and propaganda to create instability and to distract us from pursuing our restoration agenda.”
It is a victory for democracy—ACN National Youth Leader
The National Youth Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Comrade Ebikibina Miriki has also described the apex court’s verdict as a welcome development
But a resident of Yenagoa who simply identified himself as Daukore told Saturday Vanguard, “if you look around town you will discover that the ordinary folks are not concerned about the court. What the masses want is good governance and infrastructural development. It is our expectation that since this matter has been finally put to rest, Governor Seriake Dickson will go full blast on his restoration agenda for the state. We want to see Yenagoa, the state turned into a huge construction yard.”

 



by John Alechenu

 


An audit report instituted by the Independent National Electoral Commission has exposed the lack of budgeting and poor record keeping by the 63 registered political parties in the country.
INEC-Chairman-Prof.-Attahiru-Jega
An executive summary of the external auditor’s report on the accounts of political parties for 2010, which was made public by the commission on Sunday, indicted most of the parties.

Aside from the ruling People’s Democratic Party which the report said its “accounts are ready but yet to be signed by the party”, and the People’s Mandate Party, which it said, “is yet to co-operate with the commission’s auditors,” most of the other political parties either lacked budgets or had poor record keeping procedures.

INEC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger, said the publication of the report in some national dailies was done in conformity with Section 15(c) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

He said, “Specifically, the section stipulates that the commission shall arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information.”

According to the auditors, the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change and the All Progressive Grand Alliance do not have internal audited accounts for the year under review.

The report read, “The party (ACN) does not have its internal Audited report and auditing for the year under review.

“Conventional accounting books were not properly maintained. Budget and budgetary control were not in place and the party does not have a well defined fixed assets register and the assets were not labelled.

“The party claimed that its income amounted to N84, 952,475 only and it claimed that it expended the sum of N11,264,884 only.”

For the party, the report added that absence of a budget indicates that there is no solid financial plan on the ground.

In the case of the CPC, the report said, apart from not having its internal audit report and account for the year under review, it also lacked budget and budgetary control.

The report also said, “The party does not maintain both its membership and Fixed Assets registers. The party claimed that its total income for the period amounted to N331, 286,879.00 and it also claimed that it expended the sum of N268, 672,863.00.”

The case of APGA was more telling as the report did not only indicted the party on virtually all fronts of financial record keeping it also indicted the party for tax evasion.

The report said “It is pertinent to note that Pay-As-You Earn taxes were not deducted from staff salaries during the year under review.

“The party claimed that its income amounted to N405, 977,000.00 and it also claimed that it expended the sum of N114, 563,041.

The Fresh Democratic Party also had issues with its financial record keeping procedures just as it was indicted for having a “weak internal control mechanism” and that the there was no prepared budget for the year under review.

On the whole, 56 political parties were audited, seven were not.

This, according to the report signed by the Commission’s Secretary, Abdullahi Kaugama, was due to a lack of cooperation/availability of records bringing the total number of parties to 63.