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No delay needed for Nigerian election - INEC

2015-01-23 18:28
A ballot box filled with ballot is pictured before being counted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at a polling station in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Abuja - The head of Nigeria's electoral body on Friday maintained that elections set for next month will still take place, despite concerns about whether voter cards will be distributed in time.

Nigeria's national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, told a conference in London on Thursday that the February 14 poll should be delayed to ensure that registered voters received their cards.

But the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, said there had been no discussion on postponement.

Asked whether the presidential and parliamentary vote will still take place as planned, he told delegates at a meeting in Abuja: "I have said so.

"I have said everything we are doing, including the challenges of the distribution of Permanent Voters Card, we believe is something we can address long before February 14.

"We issued (the) election timetable for February 14 almost a year ago and we have been very busy working to implement that timetable to the letter."

Also read: INEC reaffirms commitment to credible elections

Security concerns have clouded the run-up to the election, with hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes by Boko Haram violence in the northeast and no let-up in the insurgency.

The area is a stronghold of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), who have said that the overall result could be called into question if the displaced are prevented from voting.

INEC said earlier this month that 68.8 million have registered to vote so far out of the 170 million population.

Dasuki told a conference at the Chatham House international affairs think-tank that he recommended delaying the vote because 30 million cards had not been issued.

He repeated the claim in a BBC World Service radio interview broadcast on Friday, adding: "I don't see how, logically, you can distribute 30 million voters cards in the next two weeks.

"That's asking for too much... There's no rush in doing it in February if the law allows you to do it in April.

"The provision (for holding a general election) is for not more than 90 days and not less than 30 days before the end of the administration...

"We still have some time to play with. I think it's better safe than sorry."

Jega said on Friday that more than 50 million of the 68 million cards had been made available and 4.1 million were received on Thursday.

"That gives us the confidence that before the end of January, all the remaining cards will be available and made available for people to collect," he added.

President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking re-election to a second, four-year term at the election, which is expected to be the tightest since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

But momentum is seen as behind the APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who headed Nigeria's military government for 20 months from December 1983.

Buhari has campaigned on a platform of a stronger and more effective approach to tackling Boko Haram and criticism of the government's record on tackling corruption.

Jonathan's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have mounted a sustained campaign of personal attacks on the 72-year-old, including over his eligibility to stand for high office.

Read more on: inec  |  apc  |  pdp  |  abuja  |  politics

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