Nigeria Tam Tam: National Assembly Election Postponed in Few Areas.....

Posted: 06 Apr 2011 04:00 AM PDT

Some parts of the country may be disappointed again on Saturday as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot guarantee that ballot paper errors would have been resolved before the National Assembly election scheduled to hold on April 9.

During last Saturday’s botched election, voters noticed that the logos of some political parties were misrepresented. In some cases, parties were omitted from the ballot paper.

Electoral officials have said that the possible rescheduling in order to correct the errors will not be widespread but limited to “a few areas” where there is a need to reprint the affected papers.

Omissions were reported in states such as Ondo and Lagos but the electoral body insists the areas affected constitute only a small portion of the 120,000 polling centres across the country.

The affected political parties put pressure on the commission to explain on how it plans to resolve the problem before elections on Saturday, amongst other demands, during a crucial meeting on Sunday with the chairman, Attahiru Jega, where the decision to postpone all elections was reached.

Emmanuel Umenger, INEC’s Director for Public Affairs, confirmed the matter was discussed at the meeting and Mr Jega had assured the political parties that the errors would be corrected before next Saturday.

But Mr Jega’s spokesperson, Kayode Idowu, said election will be postponed again in those areas where ballot papers need to be reprinted.

“Of course, that will require the printing of new ballot papers, where it is not possible to take care of that before Saturday — such areas are very few — the chairman has already said that elections in such areas will have to be conducted at a later date,” Mr Idowu said.

Multiple logos

One of the affected parties was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Voters complained that two party logos were seen printed on some ballot papers.

In a statement on Monday signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said, while it opposes the replacement of Mr. Jega, it is seeking answers to how practically INEC will rectify problems of multiple symbols and missing symbols for parties.

“The INEC Chairman must provide answers to the posers in order to engender more confidence in his commission’s ability to recover from Saturday’s false start and give Nigeria a credible election,” the statement read.

Mr Idowu said the chairman, Mr Jega, had made the point to the political parties during Sunday’s meeting and the parties were satisfied that issues with ballot papers would have been be resolved, while “a few” difficult cases, will be rescheduled.

He also denied that the commission plans to replace the modified open ballot system with secret ballot system which allows voters to vote as they are accredited.

Some other parties have also questioned the possibility of procuring sufficient ballot papers to replace the used ones on Saturday and for areas where there were shortages before the elections were called off.

The commission’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Umenger, dismissed such fears yesterday in an interview, re echoing the assurance that had become typical of the commission before Saturday’s fiasco.

“That is not an issue,” he said. “Are you telling me that if there are to be run-off elections, there will be no ballot papers for that? That has already been factored into the planning for all the elections.”

He said those concerns “will not be taken care of” before weekend; they “had already been taken care of.” “What I know is that come Saturday, the commission will conduct free, fair and credible elections that will be to the satisfaction of all Nigerians,” he added.

A fresh start

After the severe criticism it drew in the aftermath of the cancellation of last weekend’s abortive poll, the commission seemed to be steadying itself again for planning ahead of Saturday’s rescheduled election.

The tense atmosphere that had enveloped its main office in Abuja during the weekend, with a heavy security presence and several staff members appearing tense, seemed to have eased off on Monday after the commission gained an extra week to prepare for the National Assembly election.

The commission convened an emergency meeting with all the 36 Resident Electoral Commissioners, Directors of ICT as well as Directors of Logistics, on Monday in Abuja. A Twitter post, confirmed by officials, said the meeting reviewed the logistics and lapses that led to the postponement of the elections.


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