The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, is reported to have concluded a briefing with 25 civil society groups in Abuja Saturday informing them that all security agencies in the country have indicated to him, in writing, that they are not available to support the elections planned for February 14 and 28.
Jibrin Ibrahim, a leading African election expert and senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in Abuja, who was at the meeting, said Mr. Jega told the meeting that security operatives from all the agencies told INEC that they were commencing a six weeks special operations against Boko Haram insurgents in the north eastern corridors of the country and would rather not be distracted by the elections.
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Insiders at the meeting said “its pretty much a done deal at this point that the elections will be postponed” and many of the attendees told PREMIUM TIMES they were shell-shocked and depressed at what they characterize as “a clear case of political blackmail of the state against civil society”.
Mr. Jega announced that the security forces also said the operations are due to commence on February 14, the date INEC had planned for the presidential and federal legislative elections.
This decision, by the security forces, successfully renders INEC’s hitherto insistence to go ahead with the elections a risky venture.
To even collect ballot papers from their storage in the Central Bank of Nigeria for the elections will require security escort, which apparently is now unavailable in the light of the move by the security forces.
So far, only Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has reacted to speculations over the postponement of the elections. The Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed opposition to any form of postponement, though he urged that citizens should avoid getting ahead of INEC since the Commission is yet to finalize their decision.
INEC has made no official announcement yet and until then, we wait. It has taken INEC one year to plan so why postpone? There are over 770 local government areas in Nigeria and they claim to postpone because of 14?
Asked what his plan of action would be if the postponement turns out to be true, Buhari said it is his party’s decision to take.
Meanwhile, the United States called for Nigeria’s presidential elections to be held on time. The deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf said in a statement;
The US supports peaceful, free, transparent and credible electoral processes in Nigeria and renews its calls on all candidates, their supporters and Nigerian citizens to reject election-related violence. The United States also looks to Nigeria to hold these elections on time.
Mr. Jega, who had an earlier meeting with political parties, is rounding up another meeting with his 36 resident electoral commissioners now on what will amount to an INEC position on whether to postpone or go ahead with the elections.