by Segun Odeleye
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, is sorry. He’s sorry about the fact that the commission he heads ended up “shattering the expectations of Nigerians” in its conduct of the #Anambra2013 poll. He is sorry that they failed to meet the “expectations of Nigerians” with the performance.
But whether Jega’s apology would be enough to satisfy disgruntled candidates and parties calling for the cancellation of the elections however, is another matter. The candidates of the major parties in the election want the election cancelled but Jega said that the discrepancies noticed do not warrant such an action.
Addressing the press on Friday after a meeting of the INEC management committee on the election, Jega said: “There were many matters arising in the conduct of the election. And there is no doubt that INEC’s operational performance in that election has not met with the expectations of Nigerians for it being the best elections ever conducted by INEC,” he told reporters in Abuja.
“We regret shattering the expectations of Nigerians but we did our best under very difficult circumstances to have free, fair and credible elections.”
He said INEC would go ahead with the supplementary election which, according to him, has been scheduled for Saturday, November 30 in the areas where results were cancelled.
He acknowledged the allegations and accusations of irregularities made by candidates, political parties and other eminent Nigerians during the November 16 poll but said the irregularities were not substantial enough to support “outright cancellation of the elections.”
He said: “In preparing for that election, INEC was determined to make it the best election that we have conducted so far and we prepared for that election adequately more than we have done in preparing for previous elections in terms of operational preparations.
“The elections were conducted. There were many matters arising in the conduct of the election. And there is no doubt that INEC’s operational performance in that election has not met with the expectations of Nigerians for it being the best elections ever conducted by INEC.
“Nigerians are also no doubt aware that the returning officer when announcing the results compiled for that election declared it inclusive and mentioned the need to do a supplementary election in order to conclude the final compilation of the results.
“Following the conduct of the elections, we have revived complaints from candidates, political parties and many other Nigerians raising issues with the conduct of the election. Some called for outright cancellation of the election, marshalling arguments as to why the elections should be cancelled.”
Prof Jega said that at a meeting with all the field officers and senior management level field officers who participated in that election, “we reviewed the conduct of that election. We received information about what was done right and where there were lapses in the conduct of the election and the commission met today (yesterday) and took a decision with regards to the next line of action.
“We regret that in spite of our intention, the Anambra election did not turn out to be the best election that the commission has conducted so far. We regret the challenges that we faced in the conduct of this election.
“But in our assessment there is no other decision that we as a commission can take or respect other than the declaration by the Returning Officer to conduct a supplementary election in those areas where the results were cancelled before the final return is made.”
He was quick to add, however, that regardless of the inadequacies “there was substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in the conduct of the election and that a substantial majority of the complaints that have been made cannot be substantiated.
“There is no doubt that there was the challenge of late commencement of the elections. There was no doubt that this late commencement in many units was accounted for by delay in the deployment of election officials.
“There was no doubt that in some polling units materials arrived late. But where it became necessary to adjust the time of commencement and time of finishing of accreditation and voting, we have done so and elections had taken place peacefully and successfully.”
He dismissed allegations that the register which INEC gave the political parties 30 days to the election was different from the register it gave out during the stakeholders meeting a few days to the poll.
“At this point, if anybody or if any political party has the evidence of a discrepancy or total discrepancy or variance in the two registers that we have given them, then of course, they should come out and prove it,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned, the only difference with the two registers was the correction of the age and this was mentioned to the stakeholders and they accepted it when it was mentioned to them and therefore the register we conducted election with was actually the register in all material particulars except of that change of age.”