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2014 Elections: APC Senators Insist On Use Of Card Readers
Adedayo Ogunleye, Abuja
Senators of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Tuesday clashed with Senate President David Mark and other Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, senators over alleged plans to compel chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, to abandon the proposed use of card readers to verify Permanent Voters Card, PVCs, during the upcoming general elections.
The APC senators addressed journalists after the plenary following a decision to invite the INEC chairman to appear before members to give reasons why the general elections were postponed by six weeks and explain how card readers would be used during the polls.
The APC senators insisted that there was more to the proposed appearance of Jega before the Senate than meets the eye and accused their counterparts from the PDP of seeking to disallow the use of the card readers during the upcoming election.
The opposition senators asserted strongly that the card reader technology must be deployed at all polling booths because its usage would prevent rigging and make the elections credible and acceptable worldwide.
An APC senator, George Akume, who spoke at the briefing said it was shameful that countries like Ghana and Sierra Leone used card reader machines for their elections successfully while Nigeria was balking at its deployment.
Akume insisted that the card readers would add value to the conduct of the elections.
“We are talking about free and fair elections. Time has passed when people carry ballot boxes and papers to their respective rooms, thumb-print and the following days, we have senators, we have members of the House of Representatives, we have governors and we have president,” he said.
“If this country called Ghana can get it right, using the card reader, why can’t the giant of Africa do it? If Sierra Leone can do it, even Liberia, why can’t Nigeria do it? We are waiting for INEC to do it. INEC must do it. Card readers are a must to ensure free, credible, acceptable elections. To do otherwise won’t be acceptable.”
Akume said that it was regrettable that the service chiefs compelled the INEC chairman to reschedule the general elections based on the argument that they could not guarantee the security of the electorates during the election, in spite of the advice of the National Council of State to conduct the elections on February 14 as planned
He expressed regret that the National Security Adviser, NSA, had to travel to London to allude to the possible postponement of the elections on the ground that the PVCs had not been sufficiently distributed to the people.
Akume, who is a former governor of Benue State, recalled that all the former Heads of State and former Chief Justices supported the holding of the election as scheduled when the issue was discussed during the National Council of State meeting but lamented that INEC was forced to reschedule the elections when the Service Chiefs wrote to state that they could not provide security.
“We have over 774 local government areas in this country and serious security breaches in the North East are registered in only 14 local governments and, therefore, there was no reasonable ground to shift the elections. We recall that in 1999, there was no election in Bayelsa during the first round of voting. Elections were later held.
“Under normal circumstances, we believe the situation is also normal now. These affected areas should have been isolated for the purpose of holding elections at a later date. But this was not to be. We are all learned people, educated people to know that elections have been held in Columbia, which is perpetually at war with itself; elections have been held in Egypt, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Mali, Tunisia and other countries. Nigeria cannot be an exception” Akume stated.
The senator accused the service chiefs of insincerity wondering why the first excuse tendered for seeking postponement of the elections was inadequate distribution of PVCs and suddenly it changed to inability to provide security cover during the elections.
Akume also alleged that there were sinister plans in motion to undermine and manipulate the nation’s democratic institutions.
“There is serious manipulation and a deliberate attempt to undermine and to manipulate the democratic institutions and structures. There is no country in the world whose leader can sit down and do what we are doing here to undermine our democracy. That is tantamount to treason,” he observed.
The APC senator called on the president to abide by his oath to protect the nation and uphold the sanctity of the Constitution.
“Elections must be held as rescheduled. It is important that INEC must do this in order to avoid unpleasant consequences. Nigeria is a huge and complex society, culturally, structurally and all hands must be on deck to avoid the Somalia experience. There would be too many war lords in this country should we fail to do what is right,” he stated.
Akume asserted that the nation was presently the centre of global attention and hence could not afford to botch the elections.
“The whole world is watching this county. We have become a laughing stock. We are becoming a banana republic. If we don’t have troops to provide security cover, it is appropriate to say that we have troops who can intimidate, harass, embarrass and humiliate members of the opposition. It has happened to the national leader of our party and a governor under our party’s platform, he stated.