The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega has condemned the outbreak of violence in some parts of the Nigeria and continued attack on the innocent Corps members, INEC staff, offices and materials.

Prof. Jega, who briefed journalists in Abuja, postponed the governorship and Houses of Assembly elections in Kaduna and Bauchi States for the Commission’s constrain and security reasons.

The INEC boss thanked Nigerians for the successful completion of the National Assembly and Presidential elections.

“There have been several assessments of the conduct of the Presidential election, by both domestic and international observers most of which indicate that the election was not only a marked improvement on the National Assembly polls, but also met the highest global standards for free and fair elections.

“In spite of these positive assessments, some people have raised issues about the results declared by the Commission. More seriously, it has been suggested by some politicians that the outbreak of violence in some parts of the country is somehow associated with those results.

“In many instances, the violence has been unjustifiably targeted at INEC, particularly young National Youth Service Corps members who are diligently discharging their patriotic duty to the nation. It is clear to us that these young men and women are being targeted to scare them away from continuing the honourable and excellent work they have been doing during these elections. Apart from the Corps members, INEC staff, offices and materials have also been attacked.

“We as a Commission condemn the violence without reservation. It is unnecessary, unwarranted and totally unacceptable. In a democratic system, political grievances, however serious they may be, should be resolved through formal legal processes, rather than through recourse to destroying property and killing and maiming innocent people.

“Many grievances have been voiced and allegations made against INEC’s conduct and collation of results of the Presidential election. I want to put these accusations to rest. For instance, it has been alleged by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) that the Excel sheets used in collating results from Katsina and Kano States were designed to reduce its votes by as much as 40%. This allegation is totally unfounded.

“The collation process at the State level is a manual process, requiring State Collation Officers to enter results from Local Government Collation Centres into Form EC.8D by hand. However, for administrative purposes, we designed an Excel sheet to enable us to simultaneously enter the results as they are announced by the Local Government Collation Officers.

“The rationale behind this is twofold. First, we wanted a means of cross-checking the entries and computations done manually on Form EC.8D for accuracy. Second, we wanted a means of authenticating the results on Form EC.8D when they are finally delivered at the National Collation Centre in Abuja. Consequently, after collation in the State, the Excel sheet, which replicates the Form EC.8D was meant to be printed, cross-checked and signed by the State Collation Officer and emailed securely and directly to the Chairman of INEC, who was the Returning Officer for the Presidential election.

“Thus, I must emphasize that the Excel sheet was only an aid to check accuracy and authenticity of the manually collated results. It was not a substitute for Form EC.8D which was filled manually and signed by the State Collation Officer and Party Agents present at the State Collation Centres, and which is the legally admissible results for return.

“The Excel sheet for each State was prepared here in Abuja. The formulae were written into the sheets and locked with a password. This was to ensure that only figures could be entered during State collation. The necessary calculations, for instance, totals and percentages were then automatically generated by the sheets.

“What happened in Kano and Katsina States was that in writing the Excel formulae errors were made in the number of Local Governments in those States. Consequently, the totals were generally less than what was manually entered in Form EC.8D because the Excel formula was not summing results for all the LGAs in the sheets. Expectedly, the fault was immediately detected by cross-checking the formulae in the sheets. Our staff in the States brought this to the attention of the Headquarters and the formulae were immediately corrected. The obvious evidence that this correction was made was that the figures in Form EC.8D, which was duly signed by Party Agents of CPC in both States, corresponded to our Excel sheets during the national collation in Abuja. I should say that before this error was corrected, it affected the scores of all the Parties in the excluded Local Government Areas, not the CPC’s alone.

“Prior to the allegation about the Excel Sheets, the CPC had also alleged that there was massive thumb-printing and ballot box stuffing in Enugu State. They demanded that INEC suspend the collation of the Presidential Results and “fly-in” the ballot boxes from Enugu for them to demonstrate that this was the case. It is clearly impracticable to do this, for it could open a deluge of requests which conceivably could involve the ballot papers used in the 119,973 Polling Units across the country.

“Moreover, the Form EC.8D from Enugu State was duly signed by the CPC Agent. Let me reassure all concerned that we are willing to ensure that all allegations of misconduct are properly investigated. But there are issues beyond our remit, which can only be addressed by the Electoral Tribunals. For instance, finding identical thumbprints is a complex forensic process which INEC is not in a position to conduct.

“It should not be seen that we are taking issues with one party. I have addressed these because they seem to be the most prominent allegations against the Commission. I wish to assure all Nigerians, particularly political parties and candidates in these elections, that INEC remains committed to creating a level playing field for all and to managing this process impartially, transparently and with integrity.

“In the past few days, the Commission in conjunction with security agencies, NYSC and political parties has carefully been assessing the feasibility of holding the upcoming April 26th elections in the States most affected by the violence. The assessment shows that there is marked improvement in security in some of the States for the elections to hold. However, in others, specifically Kaduna and Bauchi States, the security situation remains a source of concern.

“Consequently, the Commission is constrained to postpone the April 26th elections in the two States in accordance with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) from April 26th to April 28th 2011. This is to allow for further cooling of tempers and for the security situation in those States to improve.

“I wish to use this opportunity to express the profound gratitude of our Commission, and I believe all Nigerians, to the young men and women of the NYSC for the excellent work they have done so far in very challenging circumstances. I call on them, their parents and guardians not to allow the perpetrators of violence to scare them away from the noble job they are doing for this country.

“I commiserate with all those who have been affected in one way or the other by the violence. Some have paid the ultimate price for democracy and I am sure that I speak the minds of all Nigerians if I say that the nation will be eternally grateful to them. One way of immortalizing them is to ensure that we complete the remaining elections successfully and not succumb to the designs of people who want to scuttle our collective aspiration for a strong, united and democratic country.”

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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