Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has confirmed that soldiers will not be at polling units during the 2015 general election. Jega, who made this disclosure at a town hall meeting in Abuja on Monday, however added that soldiers would be invited if there is a breakdown of law and order.
He explained that the military participated in the 2011 election within the confines of the constitution: to provide military support to the police if there is breakdown of order.
“There will be no soldiers at the polling unit. The army is not supposed to be visible at any polling unit,” Jega said.
“What we have had is three unarmed policemen manning a polling unit, while three armed policemen stay 300m away from the polling unit.
“We have never had policemen at polling units. The role of the military, as defined in the constitution, is for the military to provide support to civil authorities if there is a breakdown of law and order.”
The subject of soldiers’ deployment for the elections has generated much tension in the country.
In January, a federal high court sitting in Sokoto ruled that the presence of soldiers at polling units during elections was unconstitutional.
Hinging on the judgment, Femi Gbajabiamila, member of the house of representatives from Lagos, then moved a motion urging the house to rule out the deployment of soldiers for elections.
The controversy that the motion elicited made it sail through without debate in the house.
On the state of preparedness of INEC for the elections, Jega said: “We have done everything possible to ensure that the elections are free and fair.
“We are adequately prepared to deliver free, fair and credible elections and we are sure the election will be better than that of 2011.”
Regarding the use of card readers, Jega stated that they would add tremendous value to the electoral process, adding that he felt confident that no cloned card would work.
“Without the use of card readers, the accreditation of registered voters will be prone to alterations,” he said.
Jega also disclosed that 56 million registered voters out of 68 million had collected their PVCs.