by Sani Tukur
The Nigerian presidency is currently engaged in the bribery of small political parties who are billed to meet with the Independent National Electoral Commission Saturday to discuss possible postponement of the forthcoming elections, multiple sources in the presidency and in the parties have told PREMIUM TIMES.
A presidency source, who declined to be named for security reasons, said Friday night that presidency officials are distributing between $30,000 to $50, 000 to the parties and asking them to push aggressively for the postponement of the elections on Saturday.
Our sources said apart from the smaller parties, government officials are reaching out to the resident electoral commissioners, who will also hold a separate meeting with Mr. Jega on Saturday.
“A large chunk of the dollars have also been budgeted to bribe some of the RECs to vote for the shifting of the election,” our source said.
Another source said the smaller parties have been asked to push for at least six weeks extension.
Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, could not be reached to comment for this story. Calls to his telephone failed to connect.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, did not answer or return calls.
INEC has fixed separate meetings with chairmen and secretaries of all registered political parties, and resident electoral commissioners for Saturday to decide whether to go ahead with the general elections scheduled for February 14 and 28.
A statement Friday by Kayode Idowu, the spokesperson for the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, said after the meetings, “the Commission will address a press conference to brief the nation on its decision with regard to whether or not the general elections will hold as currently scheduled”.
Mr. Jega had on Thursday briefed the National Council of States on the preparedness of the Commission to conduct the 2015 general elections.
He made a presentation titled “Preparations for the 2015 General Elections: Progress Report”.
The National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the nation’s services chiefs also briefed the Council on the current security situation in the North-East.
Mr. Jega told the Council that his commission was in a better position to conduct election at present compared to its state of preparedness for the 2011 election.
“Compared with the 2011 General Elections, for instance, our systems are definitely more robust. We believe that we are ready for the elections as planned,” Mr. Jega said.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that convening of the meeting even after the Council of State gave the green light for the poll to go ahead was a result of intense pressure from the Federal Government.
The Electoral Act 2010 as amended recognizes INEC as the only body with powers to shift polls, often due to security concerns.
The Act however, requires the commission to only shift the polls in specific areas where there is no sufficient security to conduct the poll, except if the nation is at war
Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (amended) states that:
“Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
Sixteen political parties and four presidential candidates have earlier in the week called for the postponement of the general elections, threatening a boycott should the elections hold as scheduled.
Among the parties who called for the postponement were United Democratic Party, UDP; the Citizen Peoples Party, CPP; the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN; the Action Alliance, AA; the Peoples Democratic Congress, PDC; the Labour Party, LP; Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN; Alliance for Democracy, AD; the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP; the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP; and the Independent Democrat, ID.
The presidential candidates who want the election dates moved are Sam Ekeh of CPP, Anifowose Kelani of AA, and Ganiyu Galadima of ACPN.
However, 10 other parties on Thursday also addressed a press conference rejecting the call for postponement by the 16 other parties.
The 10 parties are the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM; African Peoples Alliance, APA; KOWA Party; Mega Progressives Peoples Party, MPPP; Social Democratic Party, SDP; African Democratic Congress, ADC; Hope Democratic Party, HDP; Democratic Peoples Party, DPP; United Progressives Party, UPP; and Accord Party, AP.