The new Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega is widely acclaimed as a man of integrity and a man who can deliver the much-needed credible elections in Nigeria come 2011.
I do not have any problem with Prof. Jega’s sterling qualities but what is bringing up bile in my mouth is this his holier than thou art attitude especially with regards to the budget for the voters registration and the conduct of the elections.
Though we have to give him kudos for taking the pains to break down his budget; that is not enough. He has to wriggle himself out of this politics of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines.
I have recently read an interview by Leo-Stan Eke, the Chairman of Zinox Computers that his company can deliver the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines at a cost far less that Jega is proposing and one week after that statement, I am yet to hear any response from Jega. So whose interest is he protecting?
Then there was also this interesting news item credited to the Managing Director of NigComSat, Ahmed Rufai. According to Rufai, the 120,000 units of the Direct Data Capturing Machine (DDC) proposed by INEC are virtually unnecessary as NigComSat will provide just 5,000 units of its smart cards to address the same task the 120,000 will perform.
He added that his agency can also provide the DDC, using Zinox as an indigenous technology to get the software installed in a computer. Again, Jega has not commented on this suggestion which according to Rufai can cut INEC’s cost by a whopping 25 per cent!
If we consider that 30 per cent of the budget (13.5 billion) was built in according to Jega in case the Commission is unable to get the DDC directly from its manufacturers, we are looking at a saving of at least 50 per cent of the N74 billion. Again, he is asking for 10 billion for voters’ registration, without the cost of machines and the allowances, what will all this money be for? So I ask again, whose interest is Jega protecting?
Like every Nigerian, I am very eager for us to have a credible Voters register and one that is full proof and difficult to manipulate especially by desperate politicians, but at the same time, it must be done with a sense of patriotism.
My view is that Jega should give these suggestions a thought and should not allow himself to be stampeded by the thieving contractors in INEC. Just imagine what these billions will do to the economy, if a Nigerian company gets the job as against changing it into forex and wiring same abroad for a foreign firm.
I have my doubts that any foreign company will be able to supply those machines and deploy the necessary technical support at this short notice, it is therefore time for Jega to be patriotic.
The last time we attempted a registration; the Canadian Company could not deploy the necessary manpower to help sort out mechanical problems when it arose at the centres and the result? A flawed voters’ register. I am sure the same contractors that deceived Prof. Iwu are at work again.
By the way, what is this new craze for government and its agency’s to quote outrageous figures for the most simple of tasks. The other day, our dear sister, Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili the self confessed dedicated Catholic looked the whole nation straight in the eyes and declared that President Jonathan and his executives have approved N250 million (about 1 million British Pounds) to publish a 20,000 copies of a 800-page compendium on Nigeria and 5,000 CDs!
Ha Nigerians, we do not have the fear of God. I happen to know a bit about printing, if madam Minister and President Jonathan do not, it is scandalous to print so few materials for such a cost! And as usual, Nigerians are not saying anything about this continuous rape of our resources.
With the elections fast approaching, we will begin to witness all manner of bogus and over bloated contracts as politicians arm their war chest for the election 2011. Jega must not allow himself to be put in this category.
I know he is eager and enthusiastic about hitting the ground running, but he should explore all locally based alternatives before looking outside, this is called looking inwards or put more clearly, it is called patriotism.
I do not believe that in 2010, 50 years after independence, an eminent professor like Jega will still be suffering from what Fela aptly called, Kolomentality. If he must contract a foreign firm, he has a duty to tell us why. We have a right to know.
He must not start his tenure on this controversial note and should realize that delivering a credible a voters’ register and subsequently, conducting free and fair elections cannot be achieved alone, he must be a credible umpire, a leader without a baggage, a leader; that will inspire all others to follow.