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No road block to 2011 elections says Ekweremadu

No road block to 2011 elections says Ekweremadu

Abuja – The Deputy President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (in photo) yesterday said there is no reason why the Independent National Electoral Commission cannot compile the voters register as well as conduct elections in January as envisaged by the constitution because every support needed from the National assembly has been provided.

Speaking with senate correspondents during a breakfast meeting in Abuja at the weekend, Senator Ekweremadu said as an Electoral body, INEC ought to have been preparing for both the update of voters register as well as the conduct of the 2011 elections before now.

According to the Deputy President of the Senate,” I do not see any reason why INEC cannot conduct a free and fair election in January 2011. So I do not see whatever road block that can stop them from doing election in January.

In terms of financing, we want to make it mandatory that they can get the money through the first line charge. All that needs to be done is that if they need money, they will go to the president, if the president send us a bill, that is supplementary appropriation, we will be glad to pass it and then based on the constitutional provision, they will get it quite easily” he said.

The Deputy Senate president’s position is in response to the remarks by the chairman of the INEC that unless the electoral act was amended, it would be difficult to compile a new voter’s register which will guarantee a credible free and fair election.

Explaining further, Senator Ekweremadu pointed out that from the amendment made to the Electoral Act by the senate; all the fears of the commission had been taken care of.

“What we have done is to assist INEC because I do not see what the big deal is that they cannot hold election in December. They gave us their concerns about the Electoral Act, the dates set out in which they will do certain things including voters registration which is their major constraint now.

They are saying that under section 10 of the 2006 Electoral Act, everything about voters registration need to be concluded 120 days before election. So they made are quest that we should reduce it to 60 days so that they will have longer time frame to do registration of voters.

We have done that in the senate version and we believe that when we go for conferencing, our house counterpart will be able to adopt that as well. If that happens, INEC will now have sufficient time to deal with the issue of voter registration” the Deputy President of the senate said.

He berated the commission for folding its hands even though it knew that there would be fresh elections in 2011.

“And come to think of it, after 2007 election, we all knew that there will be election in 2011. And no preparation was made till now. So that is the problem because this issue of voter registration should have been completed before now, whether it is January, whether it is April, election will take place in 2011.

So INEC knew all this while that there would be elections in 2011. If they have been alive to their responsibility, I am sure that by now, they would  have concluded most of the things that has to do with election in 2011 by putting things in their proper place, you can see that this did not happen” he noted.

On the argument by Professor Ben. Nwabueze that the constitutional amendment need presidential assent for the amended sections to come into effect, Senator Ekweremadu said any person who is not satisfied with the present arrangement should seek interpretation at the supreme court.

“Now talking about our constitution, section 9 set out procedures for the amendment of the constitution. I say clearly that everything that needs to be done is in section 9 of the constitution. It is exhaustive of the entire steps that need to be taken. So if the constitutional provision had wanted presidential assent, it would have made it subject to section 58 or it would have said so explicitly. Anybody who feels strongly about it is free to go the Supreme Court or any court” he said.

By Ben Aganda & Inalegu Shaibu, Abuja

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