Protesters numbering about 100 stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Monday, demanding the postponement of this month’s general elections.
The youth gathered at the INEC headquarters in the Maitama District of Abuja asking it to delay the polls because of the difficulty in the distribution of the Permanent Voters Card, PVCs.
The protest confirmed PREMIUM TIMES exclusive story of last Thursday revealing the plot by the Presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] to organize nationwide protest against the electoral body to force it to shift the polls.
According to the protesters, only 40 per cent of the poll had been distributed ahead of the February 14 and 28 elections.
They also claimed that INEC needed 960,000 ad hoc staff but that at the time of their protest the staff had not been engaged.
They argued that if the polls were allowed to go ahead as scheduled, several million Nigerians would not be able to vote.
The youth, who gathered at Unity Fountain beside Hilton Hotel before marching to the INEC headquarters on Zambezi Street, were bearing banners and placards with the inscriptions such as “Election is for general participation, not for selective few” “INEC, do the right thing,” “Don’t disenfranchise Nigerians,” “We demand for the extension of election to allow Nigerian exercise their franchise.”
After the protest, the youth returned to the Unity Fountain where they were sighted sharing money.
It was not clear if they were sponsored by the Presidency or the PDP, but sources indicated that they were hired by some unnamed individuals who promised them money.
The National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel, had at an event in London recently made a case for the shift of the elections to give INEC more time to distribute all the PVCs.
However, criticisms trailed the call with Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, alleging that Mr. Dasuki was only making the call to buy time for the PDP presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign to gather steam.
Since the NSA made the call some individuals and groups have also asked for the postponement of the polls.
PREMIUM TIMES had on January 29 reported that the party and the presidency had concluded plan to mobilize women and youth groups across the country to march on INEC headquarters and its offices across the country to demand postponement of the elections.
The report reads:
Barring any change in their plan, the Nigerian presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] will any moment from now begin to instigate protests against the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] as a way of forcing the commission to postpone the February 14 and 28 general elections.
Presidency and PDP insiders told this newspaper Thursday that as part of the plot to postpone the elections, women and youth groups across the country would be procured to march on INEC headquarters and state offices with placards, complaining about the electoral body’s refusal to deliver their Permanent Voter Cards [PVC] to them.
The protesters will then call for a postponement of the election so they would not be disenfranchised.
To perfect the plans for the widespread plans, PREMIUM TIMES understands that several planning meetings have been held by officials of the PDP, the party’s presidential campaign council and some presidency officials on how to finance the women and youth groups to undertake the protests.
A source familiar with the matter, but who declined to be named for security reasons, said the protesters are expected to gather in INEC offices to protest the inability of the commission to distribute the Permanent Voters Card and ask for the postponement of the elections.
“The protest will begin in Abuja after which similar ones will hold in various offices across the country, billions of naira has already been approved,” our source said.
He also said the latest move is a follow up to the kite flown by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, calling for the postponement of the polls on account of INEC’s inability to distribute PVCs.
Mr. Dasuki called for the postponement in London, while addressing an audience at Chatham House.
However, the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, has stated that the measures taken by the Commission for the distribution of PVCs would be enough to overcome the challenges being faced in the distribution of the cards.
INEC also said it has so far distributed 42.77 million PVCS out of the 68.8 million registered voters, representing 62.15 per cent.
Since Mr. Dasuki’s call for postponement of the polls, several Nigerians and groups, especially, the All Progressives Congress, APC, have maintained that the Presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are pushing for postponement because of the fear of failure.
The PDP and Presidency have both denied being behind the postponement move. But our source said Wednesday’s meeting has confirmed that PDP officials wanted more time to explore ways of turning around what appears a “change” momentum in the country.
“They agreed that the best thing to do is to force a postponement to allow the party recover effectively,” another presidency source said.
“They also agreed that the momentum to attack the integrity of General Buhari must be maintained before any election is allowed,” he said.
The spokesperson for the PDP presidential campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode, as well as the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Rufai Alkali, could not be reached to comment for this story.
While Mr. Fani-Kayode’s telephone lines failed to connect, Mr. Alkali did not answer or return calls.
The spokesperson for the APC, Lai Mohammed, had issued a statement Wednesday saying, a newspaper advert plainly calling for election shifts has the imprint of the PDP and Presidency.
”There is no clearer indication that the PDP and the Presidency are the puppeteers behind the election shift campaign than Wednesday’s newspaper advertorial plainly campaigning for the polls to be shifted.
”This advert, which has the picture of President Goodluck Jonathan and the logo of the PDP – meaning they will be the sole beneficiaries of the postponement they are seeking – leaves no one in doubt that the ruling party and the presidency are pathologically dishonest, deliberately deceptive and chronically terrified about the elections,” Mr. Mohammed said.