Parties Back INEC’s Request for Extension

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and opposition political parties yesterday described the push by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for more time for both the registration of voters and 2011 general election as a welcome development.

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) specifically commended INEC for its decision to seek extension of time for the poll.
Also, former Vice-President and PDP presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said the request for more time by INEC to prepare adequately for the poll had vindicated him.

Meanwhile, the commission is to meet all the registered political parties today apparently to explain its position on the request for extension of time. INEC is expected to meet the political parties by 11 am.
In its reaction to INEC’s demand for extension of time, PDP described it as a welcome development as it would give the party time to plan well for the poll.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary Prof. Ahmed Alkali who spoke to THISDAY said, “though the party observed that the timetable released by INEC was tight and difficult to follow but kept quiet so as to avoid being accused of pursuing a third term agenda, but now that the electoral umpire has come out to say it, we will support whatever INEC said”.
Alkali said further: “As a political party, the adjustment by INEC will afford PDP enough time to campaign and put everything right. Imagine what would have happened with the old time table. How could we carry out our presidential campaigns in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory ?”

ACN in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed expressed delight that INEC had finally yielded to the voice of reason from it that holding free, fair and credible elections in January was not feasible given the time frame provided now.
The party reiterated its earlier call on the National Assembly to suspend the amended Constitution with a view to giving the commission more time to get a new voter’s register ready, which is the barest minimum requirement for organising successful elections.

While saying INEC had fallen far behind in its preparations for the polls, ACN also noted that ”for example, by the Action Plan, it would take all of 190 days, starting from August 26 to be ready for the elections, which means the earliest time it would be ready – if everything had started on Aug. 26 – will be March 5, 2011.

”Also, according to the Action Plan, the DDC machines are expected to arrive Monday, Sept. 20. Yet, the contract for machines has not even been awarded! It is now clear to all, including INEC, that the time-lines are simply impossible.
”We must not allow 87 billion naira to go down the drain just because we want to organise elections in January, a date that INEC had to choose just to comply with the law, rather than with reality. We must not let the opportunity, for us to show the world that successful elections are also possible in our clime, slip by this time just because we want to box ourselves into an impossible time frame. We must get it right this time!

”INEC must know that if things go wrong with the 2011 elections, it will shoulder most of the blame. That is why the commission must show uncommon courage by telling those whose responsibility it is to provide the right atmosphere for successful polls to do so. “Asking for more time to prepare for the elections is a good starting point for INEC in its determination to organise free and fair elections next year.”

The party urged INEC to move quickly to review its time-table and come out with a more realistic one, especially concerning the organisation of party primaries for the selection of candidates, as soon as its request is granted.
Also, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said in a statement that it supports wholeheartedly the request by INEC for extension of time to deliver on the aspirations of Nigerians for a credible voters’ register and free, fair and transparent election without shifting 29 May as the handover date.

Speaking in Abuja yesterday, Atiku said: “I and other Nigerians had raised doubts about the workability of the INEC election timetable, when it was released two weeks ago. I considered it too tight and too busy a plan to guarantee free and fair elections which are so dear to our country.”

Bemoaning the failure of leadership at the highest level, Atiku noted that this looming constitutional crisis was avoidable as all the factors that led to the INEC’s reported desire for election postponement were predicted.
He pointed to government’s refusal to implement the Uwais Report, which Nigerians demanded, the undue delay in signing the Electoral Act and the delay in the release of funds to INEC “when it was clear to all that time was running out for preparations for credible elections next year.”

“Taken together, these issues raise questions about the government’s sincerity about conducting credible elections next year and whether Nigerians can trust it to deliver on those,” Atiku said.
“The government must, therefore, take full and direct responsibility for this embarrassment to the nation. This administration must now show reason why Nigerians should trust that it can conduct free and fair elections if it were to be granted an extension of time,” he added.

Atiku, however, warned that May 29, 2011 is sacrosanct and that no extension of dates for the election would be allowed to tamper with the terminal date for the present administration.

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