Falana, NUD doubt new election dates

Posted by Amechi Obiakpu, Lagos | 24 February 2015 | 4,622 times

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A Lagos-based human right lawyer, Femi Falana has on Sunday expressed fears over the new dates for the 2015 elections, arguing that there is nothing suggestive that the security chiefs are sincere about the new dates.

Originally scheduled to hold on February 14 and 28, the elections were shifted to March 28 and April 11.

Speaking in Lagos, South-West Nigeria on behalf of a civil society group, Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD), the group in Lagos South-West, Nigeria, Falana said the group had been forced to take the critical position because of the nation’s democratic history.

“We are worried that the new election dates are not sacrosanct. According to the INEC chairman, Professor Jega, only the service chiefs could guarantee that the rescheduled elections would hold. That was the submission of the INEC boss when he appeared at the Senate last week.

“For reasons best known to them, the security chiefs have not assured the nation that security would be provided on the new election dates. We are compelled to call on the National Assembly to extract a firm undertaking from the NSA and the security chiefs that the general elections would not be further postponed or disrupted.

“The undertaking ought to be made publicly by the security chiefs in view of the categorical pronouncement of the Court of Appeal that the armed forces have no role to play in the electoral process. Since all authorities and persons are bound to obey the verdicts of our courts, the President and the security chiefs should demonstrate their commitment to kowtow to the rule of law by withdrawing soldiers from election duties,” Falana said.

He said that there was the need to prevent the nation from sliding into anarchy, noting that: “We are insisting that nothing must change the new dates of March 28 and April 11. Elections must be allowed to hold on these dates. Nigeria is on the march again, this time, no one will be able to halt the decisive will of the people for democracy and sustainable livelihood.

Going down memory lane, Falana recounted: “More than two decades ago, the Nigerian people led by the progressive extraction of the civil society protested against the manipulation of political transition from military dictatorship to democratic rule.

“Notwithstanding the repressive attacks on our people by the military power mongers, the Ibrahim Babangida junta was defeated. The political crisis over the annulment of the results of the presidential election held on June 12, 1993 culminated in the imposition of the Interim National Government (ING) headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.

“To the utter dismay of the military hierarchy, the ING was declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Lagos High Court. The anti-democratic forces regrouped under General Sani Abacha who sacked the illegal ING and installed himself a military head of State.

“The murderous junta waged an unsuccessful war against the Nigerian people for 5 years. In the process, some of the political leaders who had collaborated with the dictator were either eliminated or chased into exile. At the end of the day, the maximum ruler was defeated by the Nigerian people. His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, had no choice but to hand over power to a civilian regime headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo.”

He said, “instead of building and strengthening the institutions of democracy, the Obasanjo administration engaged in the subversion of the constitution. The autonomy of public institutions was jettisoned. The rule of law was disregarded as court orders were treated with disdain. The leadership of the National Assembly and the ruling party was imposed and changed by the Presidency at will.

“Candidates were handpicked while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) became an extension of the Presidency. In a desperate bid to extend his tenure, President Obasanjo decided to foist a third term agenda on the nation. Once again, the Nigerian people defeated the satanic agenda. The “do or die” 2007 general election was crudely manipulated by the Presidency.

“It was so embarrassing that the newly elected President, the Late Mr. Umaru Yaradua admitted that the election was highly flawed. Two years later, the President took ill and was flown abroad for treatment. A cabal took advantage of the absence of the President and decided to rule the country by proxy.

“The then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was prevented from exercising any power in the absence of the President. Once again, the civil society organizations staged rallies to protest the illegal seizure of power by the cabal. The protests forced the National Assembly to pass a resolution which made President Jonathan the Acting President of the Republic under the doctrine of necessity.

“In 2011, a general election was conducted by the INEC under the chairmanship of Professor Attahiru Jega. The presidential election was won by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

But as the nation was preparing for the 2015 general election slated for February 14 and 28, 2015, the Jonathan administration commenced a campaign for postponement.

“Following the refusal of the Council of State to support the postponement, the National Security Adviser to the President and the security chiefs wrote to the INEC to the effect that they could not provide security for the election, as the armed forces would be involved in a military operation in the north east region. As the operation would last for six weeks the INEC was compelled to shift the election to March 28 and April 11, 2015”.

The legal luminary further stated that the postponement of the elections at the instance of the service chiefs cannot be justified in law.

According to him, “it was a plot to undermine the democratic process and prevent Nigerians from exercising their right of franchise. Having fought the war on terror for six years, there was no indication that the Boko Haram sect would be wiped out in six weeks.”

Since the operation is limited to 14 local governments, Falana said, there was no basis for not holding election in the remaining 760 local government areas in the federation and the 6 area councils in the federal capital territory.

He called on all Nigerians to stand hand-in-hand to speak with one voice against electoral terrorism and against any further poll shift.

•Photo shows Falana,

Source: News Express

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