THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday put on hold thecontinuous voters registration ahead of the July 14 governorship election in Edo State.
The commission said it took the decision after extensive consultations with major political stakeholders from the state at INEC headquarters in Abuja.
Briefing reporters after more than seven hours meeting with leaders of political parties and prominent governorship candidates in the election in Abuja, INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, said the action was taken to protect the integrity of INEC
He noted that though continuous voters registration was in compliant with the extant law, postponing it was the best thing to do to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
At the meeting yesterday, the governorship candidates of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole; his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Gen. Charles Airhiavbare (rtd); National Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buba Galadima were some of the parties’ leaders sited at the meeting.
According to Jega: “With regards to the continuous voters registration (CVR), which was to have commenced on May 15, we planned it consistent with the commission’s earlier decision to do it in all states with pending re-run elections since April last year’s elections.
“Hence we did it in Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Kebbi states.
“We could not do it in Cross River because we had to revise the timetable and there was no time in Sokoto.
“So, what we had intended to do in Edo State was no any different with regards to the CVR, as we did other states where elections were held since April last year.”
Continuing, the INEC chairman said: “Nonetheless, in view of the allegations and counter-allegations, which have been made in the past two weeks on the preparations for the CVR in Edo State, and given the weighty nature of some of those allegations and the need to thoroughly investigate themand take a firm decision regarding them wellbefore the elections, the commission has decided to postpone the CVR in Edo till after the elections, so that we can do it in an atmosphere devoid of suspicions, fears and so we can focus on rebuilding confidence and preparing for a free, fair and credible elections.”
Asked if the commission took into consideration the legal implications of not undertaking the CVR, since it was a provisionof the law, Jega said INEC had taken all those issues into account and studied the relevant legal provisions.
“We are safe and sure that we have not run foul of any law if we postpones the CVR. Such allegations are weighty, that if we go ahead and embark on the CVR and those allegations are true, then it would undermine our effort and make the electionsto be bad.
“We felt, in INEC, that it was better to err on the side of caution, and we believe that doing it even in the weight of these allegations could cast a very shadows on ourefforts and we decided to tread with cautionand do what we think is right and proper.”
Oshiomhole expressed satisfaction with the way the issue was resolved by Jega, especially the decision to put the registrationexercise on hold and the assurance that INECwould do everything possible to ensure that one-man-one vote is operated in Edo.
He added: “We have also assured him that we would do everything possible to share information with him, so he can look vertically and horizontally within the INEC system and identify those unscrupulous, unpatriotic and corrupt elements that are still in the system.