The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has warned the presidency to discard any plot to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega, before the commencement of the country’s general elections.
The forum in a briefing on Friday by its spokesman, Ango Abdullahi threatened that such move will be a “recipe for disaster.”
According to Abdullahi, any attempt at this last minute by the Federal Government or any of its agencies to remove Jega is a clear message that the government is determined to rig the forthcoming elections.
The group said the presidency want to remove Jega because they see him as an impediment as he thinks that the electoral umpire must follow the rules for free, fair and credible elections.
It further accused the ruling elite of plans to scuttle the elections as well as ultimately Nigeria’s democracy.
He then condemned the excuse given for shifting the polls earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28, to March 28 and April 11, describing it as “flimsy, clumsy and indefensible.”
Meanwhile, speculations that President Goodluck Jonathan plans to fire the INEC Chairman before the general elections, intensified Friday after the Federal Government refused to give a clear commitment on the matter.
In response to concerns that the INEC boss would soon be compelled to go on a terminal leave, the Minister of Information, Edem Duke, who spoke on behalf of the presidency gave an uncertain response, saying; “Mr. Jega’s exit will follow a natural course.”
Duke, however, reiterated President Jonathan’s comments last two weeks that he had not told anybody about plans to sack Jega, but Duke cleared the air that it does not mean 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.”
Recall that on Thursday, members of the Nigerian Senate belonging to the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) accused President Jonathan of plotting to ask Mr. Jega to embark on pre-retirement leave next week, but the APC lawmakers have vowed to resist the alleged plot.
Mr. Duke has reportedly taken a swipe at the APC for heating up speculations that the presidency plan to remove Jega.
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“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. 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, aside the Northern elders that are trying to cry foul over the yet to be conducted general elections. recall that the a coalition of Niger Delta ex-militant leaders have also rejected any planned shift in election dates after the initial dates, February 14 and February 28, were moved to March 28 and April 11.