Abuja – The head of Nigeria’s electoral commission said on Monday that he would not resign, rejecting calls from some supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan for him to stand down before a 28 March election.
Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has criticised Attahiru Jega’s handling of the electoral process and some accuse him of bias towards the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, charges he denies.
“I believe it would be a disservice to this country at this point in time for me to say I’m resigning,” Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told reporters in the capital Abuja.
Some of Jonathan’s supporters have posted advertisements in newspapers accusing Jega of “plunging the nation into crisis”, by failing to produce and distribute voter ID cards on time. All the adverts also urged people to vote for Jonathan.
The manner in which Africa’s most populous nation conducts this election will be closely watched by investors and world powers. Any dispute over the result could trigger violence, especially with an increasingly polarised electorate.
Jega announced a six week delay in the election last month – it was originally supposed to happen on 14 February – saying he had been told by the military that it needed more time to retake territory controlled by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The opposition condemned the delay, which was widely viewed as INEC yielding to pressure from the PDP.
“Yes there have been all sorts of demands for either my resignation or my removal and even now some demonstrations for that, as far as I’m concerned I have a job to do and I remain focused to do it,” Jega said.
A PDP spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jega said 67 million out of 68.8 million permanent voter cards (PVCs) had so far been produced, with 56 million collected, and that all would be finished and distributed by the election day.
“We are doing everything possible to make sure that everyone gets their PVCs,” he said.
Buhari, a Muslim northerner, draws the majority of his support from the largely Muslim north, while Jonathan draws much of his from the largely Christian south and east.