Speculations that President Goodluck Jonathan intends to fire the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, before the general elections, intensified Friday after the Federal Government refused to give a clear commitment on the matter.
Responding to concerns that the electoral chief would soon be mandated to proceed on a terminal leave, the Minister of Information, Edem Duke, gave an uncertain response, saying Mr. Jega’s exit will follow a “natural course”.
Although he re-echoed President Goodluck Jonathan’s comments last two weeks that he had not informed anyone of any plans to sack the INEC boos, Mr. Duke said that did not imply that when it is time for Mr. Jega “to naturally exit his office, then the natural course of things will not take place”.
“I think all of that is in the terrain of the Presidency and he has spoken. I have nothing to add to that,” he added.
On Thursday, members of the Nigerian Senate belonging to the All Progressives Congress, APC, had accused Mr. Jonathan of plotting to ask Mr. Jega to proceed on pre-retirement leave next week.
They promised to resist the alleged plot.
Mr. Duke criticised the APC for fuelling speculations about Mr. Jega’s removal.
“I will also like to say once on that issue. I recall that for several weeks now, people keep threatening the President on the shift in the date of the poll. You begin to wonder that parties have a couple of extra weeks in order to reinvigorate their campaigns and try to reach as many voters as possible,” he said.
“Rather than do that, you begin to identify imaginary pockets of unlikely developments and then focus your attention on them and then when you lose election, you begin to complain.”
Northern elders reject move to sack Jega
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum has warned the presidency to jettison any plot to remove Mr. Jega head of the general elections, saying such move will be a ”recipe for disaster”.
The spokesperson for the group, Ango Abdullahi, said “any attempt at this last minute by this government or its agency to remove Jega is a clear message that this government is determined to rig an election in which they see Jega as an impediment simply because he thinks that the commission must follow the rules for a free and fair and credible election”.
Sacking “Jega at this material time will be a recipe for disaster”, Mr. Abdullahi warned at a press conference Friday.
He said the excuse given for postponement of the general elections, earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28, to March 28 and April 11, was “flimsy, clumsy and indefensible”.
Speaking against background of security concern cited for the poll shift, he said, “the NEF viewed it as unacceptable because only a small fraction of the security personnel in the country are directly engaged in the battle against insurgency within the north east enclave of the country.
“We also know that even in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan , Sri Lanka and more recently Afghanistan where full scale wars were still raging when they decided that election could still be held and indeed were held.”
Stating further, he accused the “the ruling elite” of plot to scuttle the elections and ultimately Nigeria’s democracy.