Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Following last Saturday's postponement of elections to the Senate and the Federal House of Representatives by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), stories surrounding the polls, now rescheduled for 9 April, 2011, dominated newspaper pages in Nigeria this past week.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, citing the late arrival of score sheets from vendors abroad, called off the 2 April polls, and effectively rescheduled all the other elections in the country.
While the National Assembly elections will now hold Saturday, the presidential poll was moved from 9 April to 16 and the governorship elections from 16 April to 26 April.
"INEC in top gear for NASS poll; Stops election in 15 Senatorial zones, 48 federal constituencies", was the headline of the INDEPENDENT on Saturday. According to the paper, Jega Thursday announced preparation for the first of the three elections -- the polls for the National Assembly (NASS) on Saturday -- but excluded voting in 15 Senatorial Districts and 48 Federal Constituencies where there were problems with materials and some party logos missing on the ballot paper.
He told a press conference in Abuja that the INEC had since worked tirelessly to address the challenges observed in the aborted vote on 2 April.
He confirmed that result sheets printed abroad and other election materials had been delivered to the country and received by states and councils nationwide, in the same way that logistic challenges had been addressed.
Consequently, Jega assured that all is set for the NASS election.
The GUARDIAN headlined its story "How We’ll Ensure Credible Polls, By Jega", with the riders 'Orders Early Start of Voting', 'Wants Polling Units Of 500 Voters Split' and 'Beefs Up Security'.
According to the GUARDIAN, Nigerians are going to the polls Saturday after shaking off the disappointment of the postponement of the election of last Saturday.
To avert a recurrence of the challenges that led to the shift of the National Assembly polls, the paper said, INEC had adopted some measures.
Speaking, while receiving a delegation from the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) Observer Mission in the country to monitor the general elections, the INEC boss assured that everything had been put in place to produce free, fair and credible elections.
He said that a review of the botched National Assembly elections last week Saturday indicated that on the average, polling officers came to their places of posting at about 10.30-11 a.m., a situation he described as unacceptable.
The INEC boss, who lamented the botched polls last week, admitted that it constituted a serious blight to the country’s image, but insisted that the decision to postpone the elections was taken to return credibility and integrity to the process.
"Vote and Wait: It’s the Best Option, Jega Insists", THISDAY newspaper said in its front page headline Saturday, reporting that Jega Friday defended the Commission’s position on-vote-and-wait policy for Saturday's election, saying the system had been tested and found to be the best guarantee for free and fair poll.
Jega, who addressed the contentious debate as to whether voters should wait at the polling booth after voting, denied any disagreement with the law enforcement agencies on the matter, as according to him, discussions were on going so as to arrive at an acceptable solution on the matter.
While he admitted that the decision had the potential of posing serious challenge to crowd control, the INEC boss said on the average it had far greater tendency of bringing credibility and integrity into the electoral system in the country, more so as it had been tested and found useful in the past.
All the other papers also ran stories on INEC's readiness to make the rescheduled polls a huge success.
However, with just a day to the polls, INEC was presented with a "gift" -- the bombing of its offices in Suleja, near Abuja.
"NASS election eve bomb blast kills 25 in Suleja", the PUNCH reported on Saturday, saying that no fewer than 25 persons, mostly National Youth Service Corps members, were feared dead and several others seriously injured after a bomb explosion rocked Suleja Local Government Area, in Niger State, on Friday.
The event created panic in the entire state ahead of Saturday's rescheduled National Assembly election. The incident occurred at the Suleja office of the Independent National Electoral Commission at about 5.30 pm.
Bombs had exploded on 3 March, 2011, at a rally organised by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party at the Government Secondary School, Suleja, killing several people and injuring many others.
A bomb scare had also rattled another PDP rally at Sarkin Pawa, Suleja, as people abandoned Governor Babangida Aliyu’s event and ran for safety.
The GUARDIAN captioned its story "Explosion rocks Suleja INEC office", reporting that with a couple of hours to the start of the elections, an explosion on Friday rocked the Suleja, Niger State office of INEC.
It said the Spokesman to INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, confirmed the incident, but did not give any casualty figure.
The NATION reported the same story under the headline "Bomb blast in INEC office in Suleja, Six feared dead", just as the TRUST, THISDAY and VANGUARD gave prominence to the story.
On the postponed polls in some states, the TRIBUNE headline was "Again, INEC postpones NASS election in 25 states, 15 senatorial districts, 48 federal constituencies in 26 States affected; to hold April 26".
According to the paper, Jega, who disclosed this at a world press conference in Abuja on Thursday, said that the action became necessary in order to address the issue of the missing logos of certain political parties in the ballot papers discovered during the botched 2 April polls and as well to enable the commission to reprint additional ballot papers.
The following were the other headlines on the rescheduled polls -- The VANGUARD: "INEC Shocker: Saturday poll shifted again in some areas"; THISDAY - "INEC: No Senatorial Election In Ekiti,Plateau, Others"; TRUST - "24 hours to D-Day : No elections for 15 Senate, 48 House seats"; SUN - "INEC postpones NASS polls in 48 federal constituencies, 15 senatorial districts"; PUNCH - "No polls in 63 districts, constituencies"; and the GUARDIAN - "INEC shifts N’Assembly polls in 63 areas".
Also during the week, the papers reported the warning from the US that it would sanction election cheats in Nigeria which it said had not conducted credible election since 1993.
Also reported was the story that "the vendor who caused the fiasco that led to the postponement of the National Assembly elections 2 April will face judicial sanction for breach of contract".
-0- PANA VAO 9April2011