The chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the electoral body is prepared and committed to ensuring February's vote is free, fair, credible and devoid of violence.
Attahiru Jega said Nigerians will see a significant improvement from previous elections.
“We have introduced many additional new things that can add to the integrity of the electoral process. So I feel confident that we are not adequately prepared to [administer] the 2015 elections and to do it much better than the 2011 general election,” said Jega.
Jega said the new measures are aimed at winning the confidence of prospective voters. He denied accusations that INEC officials will rig the vote.
“We believe that to earn the trust and confidence of the people, we have to protect the integrity of the electoral commission, we have to ensure that it is non-partisan, it is impartial under any circumstances it provides a level playing field for all contestants,” said Jega. “These [will] assuage suspicions or allegations and to also earn the trust and confidence of the voters as well as the contestants in the electoral process.”
Jega said the electoral body plans to ensure electoral materials are delivered around the country in a timely manner and ensure all polling stations open on time on Election Day.
“We’ve paid a lot of attention to designing policies and to execute policies with adequate mechanisms that can ensure with regards to operational and logistics of the conduct of election, we are efficient and also our staff exhibits the necessary professionalism that is required,” said Jega.
Some Nigerians have called for the elections to be postponed, especially in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, citing attacks by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. They expressed concern the growing insecurity could prevent voters from going to the polls.
Jega acknowledged the security challenges, but added that the electoral commission is working closely with security agencies to protect voters.
He said INEC is prepared to administer the elections in every part of the country.
“We as an election management body has been working very closely with the security agencies to understand and analyze the situation and to be able to rely on their advice as to what level of security arrangements are necessary to be able to conduct credible elections in those areas,” said Jega. “We are hopeful and we are also prayerful that we would be able to conduct elections everywhere in Nigeria.”
Jega also said INEC encourages both local and international observers to monitor the elections.
“We have benefited from the reports of international observers, those who observed the 2011 elections and gave us their reports. A lot of the reform measures we introduced to improve the process were drawn from the reports that we got from independent observers,” said Jega.