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Nigeria president says 'not consulted' on election postponement

WORLD
By AFP | February 12th 2015
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

Lagos: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Wednesday that he was "not consulted" on a controversial decision to postpone national elections, but vowed that the vote would take place and an elected government sworn in on May 29.

Some have accused Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of secretly lobbying for the six-week delay out of fear that it was heading for defeat in the polls initially scheduled for February 14.

"I was not consulted and I don't want to be consulted," Jonathan said in a nationally broadcast interview, rejecting claims that his political interests motivated the postponement.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and military top brass last week urged election officials to push back the vote.

They said most available troops had been sent to the northeast to battle Boko Haram Islamist militants and would therefore not be able to provide nationwide security on polling day.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also struggled to distribute voter identity cards, which the NSA listed as another reason in support of a postponement.

The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and many observers claimed the NSA was trying to buy more time to save Jonathan's struggling re-election campaign.

But Jonathan insisted election officials made an independent decision after receiving guidance from the security agencies.

He also completely dismissed suggestions of a wider conspiracy to scrap the polls entirely so as to extend his time in office.

"Let me assure Nigerians that elections will be conducted in this country and a government will be inaugurated on the 29th of May," he told a panel of journalists.

Jonathan said he did not "see the big deal" concerning the postponement, as INEC acted within the constitution.

Nigerian law calls for the vote to completed 30 days before the May 29 inauguration deadline, meaning the new election date of March 28 falls within the law.

The president said the "international community" occasionally sees election delays in Africa as an excuse by the incumbent to "extend tenure".

"That is not the case in Nigeria," he said.

Jonathan is facing a tough challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and most experts have said the race is too close to call.

Ruling party leaders have in recent days grown fiercely critical of INEC boss Attahiru Jega, questioning his competence and even suggesting that he was secretly collaborating with the opposition.

Some PDP leaders have called for Jega to be replaced before the vote, citing INEC's failure to distribute sufficient voter cards in ruling party strongholds

But Jonathan said stories that he was planning to remove Jega "belong to the garbage world," and voiced confidence that INEC would conduct free and fair polls.

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