Some residents of Abuja on Thursday protested against alleged plans by the Nigerian government to manipulate the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] to postpone the forthcoming 2015 general elections.
The protest, organized by the civic group, National Consensus Movement, commenced from the Unity Fountain, Maitama, with protesters marching in the directions of Eagle Square, a premium event centre in the nation’s capital.
But as they filed past the Federal Secretariat, the protesters were blocked by officers of the Nigeria police.
Not deterred, the protesters went on chanting, ” Election must hold, Election must hold.”
The placard-carrying protesters said it was hard for anyone to believe that after heating up the polity, the government could resort to an attempt to postpone the already planned election.
Some of the various placards read: “Nigerians say no to postponement, we want election”, “Democracy must survive.”, “Our vote of confidence to Jega. Give us elections. February 14.” “Election must hold on 14th of February ” and “GEJ, you claimed you have done 20,000km of roads, why are you afraid of elections?”
Others read, “No responsible Nigerian will support postponement of election and NCS members are all responsible. So say no to postponement ” and “No to election postponement. ”
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Mohammed Abdullahi,30, an Abuja-based business man, said it would be unfair to the average Nigerian if the election is postponed.
Mr. Abdullahi said elections in Nigeria have become occasions when some citizens travel from their base to their states of origin to vote.
He said a call for postponement would inconvenience people who have already moved their families to various locations in a Nigeria to cast their votes.
He also called on the government to reconsider its plans for the rumoured postponement and allow INEC its independent right to handle the affairs of the election.
“Some of my friends in PDP have even told me it’s not fair because they have spent a lot of money in campaigns. And postponement only means sourcing for funds for fresh campaigns,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
Others said the plan for postponement is a tactical approach by the present administration to ensure elongation of tenure.
The National Council of State is meeting today to deliberate on issues of possible postponement.
However, Attahiru Jega, Chairman, INEC, has said the commission is prepared for the coming elections and has no plans for a postponement.
Before today’s anti-postponement protest, some apparently hired youths numbering about 100, had on Monday marched on INEC headquarters demanding the postponement of the elections.
The youth had gathered in front of the electoral body’s headquarters, asking the commission 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 recently at an event in London made a case for a 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 President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign to gather steam.