AFTER about seven hours of deliberations, the National Council on States rose from its meeting yesterday and advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to continue preparations for general elections scheduled for this month.
However, the Council also advised the electoral body to consult widely with other stakeholders before the elections, contrary to reports yesterday that the Council directed INEC to go ahead with the polls.
The Guardian learnt that the Commission was specifically advised to consult security agencies about their preparedness for the polls.
In a joint briefing of State House correspondents after the meeting, Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, his Imo State counterpart Rochas Okorocha and Bala James Ngillarii of Adamawa State, said that the decision to push the final decision to INEC was based on the fact that the body was statutorily responsible for the conduct of the elections.
However, there was mild drama between Mimiko and Okorocha at the briefing as the two openly disagreed over the real issues at the meeting. Mimiko, who briefed first tried to dress it in coded language as he told journalists that the meeting had directed INEC to consult widely with all stakeholders before taking final decision on the election.
refused to categorically state whether any decision to postpone the election was taken, instead insisted that INEC would brief the nation.
According to Mimiko: “It was a major issue that was discussed, issue of preparedness of security to conduct elections nationwide, issue of extensive pilot use of the card readers which is a new technology. All of these were discussed, but ultimately council being an advisory body had to take advantage of the different perspectives of members to take decision about the election.
“For any avoidance of doubt like I said, INEC had the benefit of inputs and perspectives from council members. Issues of distribution of PVCs, card readers, the extent of piloting to ensure that people are familiar with this, security issues, all of these were discussed. Issues of the fact that seven days to election 34 per cent of Nigerians are yet to get PVCs.”
Not satisfied with Mimiko’s explanation, Okorocha took over the microphone and immediately told journalists that the Council has asked INEC to go and carry out its statutory responsibility.
According to him: “The Council advised INEC to go and perform its civic responsibility which is to conduct elections. That is what we rose to agree, it was a very challenging moment, and INEC has reaffirmed severally that it is ready, but because of concern of security agencies in some few local governments, Council asked INEC to go and perform their civic responsibilities, which is the conduct of elections.”
Asked if there was a decision as to change of date for the polls, he said: “There was no decision as to change of date or postponement at all, but the Council has asked INEC to go and perform its responsibility.”
The Imo governor, in an answer to another question as to place of Temporary Voters’ Card (TVCs) said: “TVCs are being exchanged for the new ones and once you have given out your temporary voter’s card, that means you don’t have any more. So people are going for the Permanent Voters Cards(PVCs) and the PVCs would be assumed to have been distributed before Sunday that was the essence of the whole exercise, and the INEC Chairman
Prof. Attahiru Jega has reassured us that they are equal to the task, in-fact, they are more prepared than they were in 2011.”
Explaining the apparent discord between him and his Ondo State counterpart along party line, Okorocha said: “As usual we will not be on the same page on any matter of this nature. It is normal that some will be for and others will be against, but the truth is that we looked at the Nigerian Constitution, that is the only binding factor when there are issues of disagreements, the constitution guides every one because that is the fundamental law that guides the whole nation’s policies.”
The meeting was attended by General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Earnest Shonekan, and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. However, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was absent. Senate President David Mark and Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal also attended.
Others at the meeting included Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Air Chief Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah (Army), Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, (Navy), Admiral Adesola Amosu (Air Force), Suleiman Abba, Inspector-General of Police ( IGP), Director-General(DG) State Security Service (SSS) Ita Ekpeyong, National Security Adviser ( NSA) Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), among others.
Governors present at the meeting included Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano, Rauf Aregebsola of Osun, Umaru Tanko Al-Makira of Nasarawa, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto, Willie Obiano of Anambra and Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger.
Others included, Babatunda Fasola of Lagos, Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, Idris Ichalla Wada of Kogi, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna, Sullivan Iheanacho Chime of Enugu, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Abdulkarim Abubakar Yari of Zamfara, Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara and Ibrahim Shehu Shema.
Also in attendance were, Jonah David Jang of Plateau, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of Edo, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.
Borno, Yobe, Abia, Oyo states governors were represented by their deputies. Taraba State Acting Governor, Danladi Abubakar was present, while the governors of Benue, Ebonyi and Kebbi states were neither present nor represented.