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2019: No plan to postpone election despite budget delay –INEC

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INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu

 

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has said that delay in the passage of the budget of the 2019 election would not lead to a postponement.

Yakubu said the Electoral Act did not give room for the postponement of elections.

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The INEC boss made this assertion while speaking with journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

His words:  “I have said this over and over again; there are no conditions under which elections should be postponed, under section 26 of the Electoral Act.

“The date is formed and fixed, February 16, 2019; we issued the timetable way in advance; for the very first time in the history of our nation, citizens of Nigeria know when elections will take place one year in advance. It has never happened before.

“Secondly, for the very first time in the history of our country, citizens know the budget of the electoral commission; citizens know line by line how much the commission proposed; what the money is going to be spent on.

“I think I am very happy with this process.’’

He expressed optimism that the virement before the National Assembly would be approved, saying that he had made the necessary clarifications needed.

According to him, the National Assembly was pleased with his explanation and he believed that he would soon hear from the legislators.

He also spoke on the extension for the voters registration.

“As at Saturday last week, August 11, we have registered 12.1 million citizens; this will eventually be added to the 70 million voters that are already registered for the 2019 general elections.

“We have voters register of over 80 million citizens.

“Let me make this very important clarification; the registration is going to take place between 9 a.m. in the morning and 5 p.m. daily including weekends but excluding the public holiday. You know Tuesday and Wednesday next week have been declared public holiday.

“The second important clarification that I should make is that the end of the continuous voters’ registration is August 31 but that does not mean the end of the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

“Collection of PVCs will continue until at least one week to the general election in February 2019,’’ he said.

Amnesty International: New boss promises to tackle issues in Africa

The new Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, has pledged to strengthen Amnesty International’s work in order to tackle the most pressing issues facing Africa.

Naidoo made the pledge when he met with human rights activists from across Southern Africa in Johannesburg to hear first-hand about their struggles.

His pledge was made known in a statement signed by the Media Manager, Amnesty International, Southern Africa, Robert Shivambu.

His words:  “Today I met brave and courageous human rights defenders from across Southern Africa who are risking their lives every day by demanding justice, accountability and equality.

“We need to see much more intra-African solidarity for the cause of justice. That is why I chose to start in my role as Secretary General here in Africa, and to speak with activists from across the region to show that we at Amnesty International are serious about working side by side with them to address the key human rights challenges affecting all Africans.

“My experience with them today reminds me that if anyone in Africa believes we are going to win the struggle for human rights alone, we are deluding ourselves. But together, we are strong.”

Activists from across the Southern Africa region, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Lesotho, gathered in Johannesburg to share moving accounts of their search for freedom and justice on issues as diverse as protection of the rights to people living with albinism to freedom of expression, protecting the environment, fighting corruption and upholding independence of the judiciary.

The activists included a health worker, a mechanical engineer, a judge, a rapper, journalists and campaigners.

All of them shared similar stories of courage, resilience and how much the campaigning and actions taken by Amnesty International supporters meant to them personally.

“The moment freedom of expression is taken away from me, that’s the moment my life is taken from me. I keep going because of the support of other people who have spoken out for me. I need their solidarity as an artist to continue doing what I do,” said Fumba Chumba, also known as Pilato, a musician and activist from Zambia who is being targeted for using his music which highlights corruption in his country.

Many of the activists shared stories of the great personal cost of their struggles, including Nohle Mbuthuma, a campaigner from Pondoland, South Africa, who is fighting against the exploitation of her community’s territory by an Australian mining company, Mineral Commodities Limited.

“We live in a peaceful, beautiful area where we share everything – food, land and love. The elites have discovered what we have, and want to take it away from us. We organised together to stand up to the mining company and the corrupt government who supports them. That is how we acquired a death certificate so easily – some of my colleagues have been killed, and I know I could be too. But I am not scared,” she said.

In one of the most moving accounts, the wife of disappeared Zimbabwean journalist, Itai Dzamara, Sheffra, told of her painful search to find out what happened to her husband, who disappeared in 2015.

“It is painful to live not knowing where your loved one is. I am still hopeful. Every day I think that he will come back, or that someone will tell me that he has been found. I am always pained when my children ask where their father is. I don’t have an answer for them. I am concerned that the issue of my husband is not being taken seriously, especially by a government that claims we are free,” said Sheffra Dzamara.

“I want to acknowledge the role that Amnesty has played in putting pressure and demands on the government to release Itai. I want the truth to come out. I want to be able to answer for my children, they are still young. They deserve an answer.”

Kumi restated Amnesty International’s unwavering commitment to campaign for Itai Dzamara and accountability for his enforced disappearance.

His first act as Secretary General was to sign a letter to the future leader of Zimbabwe about Itai’s case.

Kumi also underscored the need to protect press freedom across the continent.

“President Trump’s persistent attacks on the media is emboldening some of our leaders in Africa to say, well if he is doing it, we can do it. So we have to be very vigilant about attacks on the media from people who are emboldened by what is coming out of the White House,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“African leaders must know that they work for the people, not the other way round. During my time at Amnesty International, I want all African human rights activists to know that we are fully behind them in their fight for justice, equality and accountability.”

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