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N300m Atikuís largesse rocks local observer groups - FG calls for investigation - Atiku cries blackmail

Posted by Idowu Samuel, Abuja on 2007/03/27 | Views: 894 |

N300m Atikuís largesse rocks local observer groups - FG calls for investigation - Atiku cries blackmail


INDICATIONS were rife over the weekend that the camp of local observers for the April general elections is in disarray in the light of reports that some of the groups are now at one anotherís throat over the alleged largesse of N300million offered to them by Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

INDICATIONS were rife over the weekend that the camp of local observers for the April general elections is in disarray in the light of reports that some of the groups are now at one anotherís throat over the alleged largesse of N300million offered to them by Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The sum was said to have been handed over to the groups, as a form of support to enable them monitor the April elections in a manner that would convince the international community of the outcome of the elections.

Some members of the observer groups who were said to have been shortchanged in the sharing of the sum reportedly intimated government officials about the development.

The two most prominent groups mentioned in the scandal which the presidency is said to be investigating, are the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE).

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is currently sorting out the applications of different election monitoring groups for recognition as observers in the April elections, those of the TMG and the ACE inclusive.

The vice president, however, dismissed the report as an attempt to blackmail him, contending that the report ran against logic, given the fact that observer groups that have signified interest in monitoring the April elections are so many that no amount offered to them would have been sufficient.

Vice President Atiku who spoke through Dr Adeolu Akande, a top official in his Campaign Organisation, said rather than making attempts at blackmailing the vice president, both the federal government and the INEC should be more concerned with the necessity to conduct free and fair elections in April.

He said logically, the vice president stands to gain nothing from giving money to any election monitoring group when, according to him, the INEC has been insisting on excluding him from the presidential election.

ďThere are more than 200,000 groups of observers who had shown interest in monitoring the April elections. In a situation whereby the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) alone had promised to contribute not less than 20,000 observers, so also the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, women Islamic groups and others needles to talk of foreign monitoring groups, how much then can you offer these group that will suffice?,Ē Dr. Akande wondered.

Also reacting, the chairman of the TMG, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma attributed the report to an attempt by the government to blackmail the local election monitoring groups, as he dismissed the speculation as untrue.

He said election observers are mere ad-hoc staff who have saddled themselves with the task of training people to observe during elections, stressing that his group was not unmindful of attempt by the government agencies, including the National Orientation Agencies (NOA) and the INEC to blackmail credible observer groups ahead of the April elections.

He said, ďIt is laughable to hear this kind of speculation. It is impossible for an observer group to collect money to perform its task even before an election. It is all an attempt to discredit our organisation, knowing that the officials of government have always been suspicious of our activities.Ē

A member of the Alliance for Credible Election, who spoke anonymously with Sunday Tribune also dismissed the report as untrue, stating that he was never aware that such sum of money was released to any of the groups by anyone.

In a related development, the Managing Director of NGO Network in Nigeria, Muhammed Bougei Attah, has alleged that the federal government has been cracking down on NGOs in the country in a bid to prevent them from reporting the April elections outside the purview of the government.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.