President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday assured Nigerians and the international community that the country’s general elections, fixed for March 28 and April 11, would hold as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Mr. Jonathan also said the Federal Government was working hard to improve the capacity of the armed forces to fight insecurity.
The president spoke at the inauguration of four Navy ships: Okpabana, Centenary, Sagbama and Prosperity at the Naval Dockyard limited, Victoria Island, Lagos.
He said his administration would rout Boko Haram and conduct elections as scheduled by INEC.
“So, Nigerians can see that the present administration is leaving no stone unturned to improve the capacity of our armed forces, not just the Navy but also the Army and the Air Force,” he said. “We have built sufficient capacity. And let me also use this platform to promise good country men and women that we would rout Boko Haram. Our capacity has increased sufficiently and our officers and men are doing wonderfully well in the North.
“And we must conduct our elections as scheduled by INEC, because within this period we are convinced that we will return the North to the level where the activities of extremists will not affect our elections. They are working hard day and night and I directed that Nigerians should be briefed regularly.”
The President spoke a day after the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, told Nigerian federal lawmakers he could not guarantee the 2015 general elections would hold on the rescheduled dates.
At a meeting with Senators Wednesday, Mr. Jega said he could not commit himself to the “sanctity” of the new dates because security cover for the polls was beyond the control of his commission.
INEC had postponed the elections after military chiefs warned against going on with the vote to allow it focus on fighting the terror group, Boko Haram.
But the opposition All Progressives Congress said the delay was instigated by President Jonathan, to save him and his party from losing the elections to the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
There have also been suggestions that Mr. Jonathan and his party were plotting to derail the election and planning to foist crisis and an Interim National Government on the country.
But the President has now reiterated that the election would go on as planned, saying Boko Haram would have been sufficiently routed by the new dates to allow elections hold in the troubled North-East region.
Mr. Jonathan said his administration would continue to place much premium on national security in its drive to become one of the leading economies in the world.
“In line with my administration’s Transformation Agenda and our vision of becoming one of the leading economies in the world, premium is placed on improved national security. This includes food security as well as employment generation. The high dependence of the nation’s economy on offshore resources as well as the enormous potential of the maritime sector to contribute to our food security and employment generation makes provision of effective maritime security very imperative.
“Therefore, the Nigerian Navy, as the lead maritime agency, deserves all the support it needs to effectively carry out its statutory roles. In this regard and in spite of other pressing demands, this administration has continued to support the fleet capitalisation objective of the Nigerian Navy transformation plan of 2010 to 2020, which was formulated to support the realisation of the goals of the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda, especially in the security sector. The four ships being commissioned today are part of a total of six ships expected to be commissioned into the Nigerian Navy fleet by 2015.”
Mr. Jonathan further reaffirmed the administration’s confidence in the ability of the Nigerian Navy to fight oil theft and other maritime crimes.
According to him, the level of oil theft has not abated but vandalism of pipelines in the coastal regions has reduced drastically.
He said that the four ships inaugurated were the highest delivered by any administration since the Shehu Shagari’s administration inaugurated three at once during the Second Republic.
The president also commended the collaboration among the U.S., Peoples Republic of China and the Federal Government of Nigeria to fight insecurity, adding that his administration would not waiver in its support to the armed forces.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Usman Jubrin, a vice admiral, said that in line with the Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government, the Nigerian Navy formulated its transformation plan from 2011 to 2020 with fleet capitalisation as its target.
He said that the Navy had been dogged by inadequate facility to contain the nation’s security challenges.
Mr. Jubrin, however, commended the Jonathan administration for its huge investment in security which he admitted was the highest by any administration.
The Naval chief said that additional eight small craft were expected to join the fleet before the end of 2015 in support of the naval efforts in ensuring maritime security.